Foundations / Habits – Behaviours that lead to Success

Author- Veeral Patel

“Making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse is insignificant in the moment. But over the span of moments that make up a lifetime, these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be.” – James Clear (Author of Atomic Habits)

It’s no surprise that our habits make up who we are as a person and go on to shape our identity. The compound interest of our habits lead to the actualisation or failure of reaching our personal goals. That being said, let’s explore some easy habits that you could incorporate into your daily life. 

  1. Stairs over elevators

A small yet easy hack, which you would have no doubt heard of is to strive to take the stairs over the lifts and escalators where possible. This will help you to simply burn more calories while also keeping your knees and hips strong through constant exposure to loading. Our primary tips when using the stairs are to try to keep your knee in line with your foot (rather than letting it collapse inwards), and not to push through pain that is either reproduced or aggravated when using the stairs. 

  1. Picking up the pace 

Current physical activity guidelines by the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity; or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (WHO, 2020). This, of course, can be performed via multiple bouts throughout the week. In addition to this, WHO also recommends 10K steps on a daily basis as a good proxy for physical health. However, it’s not necessarily how many steps to you but rather the cadence. Therefore, by walking slightly faster than usual, you are checking off both boxes. Faster walking will increase your heart rate while also allowing you to be more time efficient. Several observational studies have shown that faster walkers have longer life spans. Our only caveat is to ensure that you prioritise safety and be careful if it is raining or if there is uneven paving. 

  1. Optimising sleep hygiene 

A good night’s rest goes a long way, as we’ve all experienced a lack of sleep. Sleep hygiene is the current buzz around town. As we recognise how multifactorial healthcare is, the importance of sleep quality and duration continue to become non-negotiable. In adults 7.5-8 hours of good quality sleep is recommended on a per night basis (Chaput et al., 2018; Walker, 2017). Several studies have reinforced that a good sleep schedule lowers your risk of cancer, diabetes, dementia, heart attacks and strokes, all while enhancing your memory, alertness, skin, immune function, pain and mood. It really all sounds too good to be true. Below are proven methods on how to optimise your sleep hygiene:

  • Consistency is key: barring the occasional late night, try to sleep and wake up at a set time. Just be aware that the above benefits tend to blossom after at least 6 weeks of consistency (Worley, 2018).
  • Keep your room dark, quiet and cool to minimise disruptions and increase melatonin release to assist in putting you to sleep.
  • Avoid screen exposure 2 hours prior to bed and 1 hour after waking up. Natural light exposure after waking is recommended to reset your circadian rhythm (Blume et al., 2019), as it has been throughout the lifespan of our species. Reading prior to sleep is much more effective than falling asleep watching TV or browsing our phone. 
  • A routine of relaxing habits prior to bedtime will ensure a smoother wind-down process: Meditating, stretching, breathing techniques, yoga and taking a warm bath are all great strategies to try. 
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol prior to bed-time (we can forgive the odd party or dinner with friends): Caffeine has an average half-life of five to seven hours (Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research, 2001). This means that a coffee at 2pm will still be in your system close to bed-time and potentially affect the quality of your REM (random eye movement) sleep. Alcohol is especially disruptive to REM sleep (Colrain et al., 2014). 
  1. Showing up

It’s easy to exercise or train when you feel good, but it’s actually crucial to show up when you don’t feel like it. By showing up you are strengthening your identity towards that behaviour. The next time you feel unmotivated or are finding it difficult to show up, even just arriving at the gym and performing 1 set or putting your sport shoes on and going for a short walk will go a long way in the grand scheme of achieving your health and wellbeing goals. Remember, “If you can get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done” (Cear, 2018).


Clear, J. (2018). Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Penguin Random House.

Chaput, J. P., Dutil, C., & Sampasa-Kanyinga, H. (2018). Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this?. Nature and science of sleep, 10, 421–430.

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. (2001). Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance: Formulations for Military Operations (2nd ed., pp. 33-72). National Academies Press (US).

Colrain, I. M., Nicholas, C. L., & Baker, F. C. (2014). Alcohol and the sleeping brain. Handbook of clinical neurology, 125, 415–431.

World Health Organization. (2020). WHO Guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. World Health Organization.

Blume, C., Garbazza, C., & Spitschan, M. (2019). Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood. Somnologie : Schlafforschung und Schlafmedizin = Somnology : sleep research and sleep medicine, 23(3), 147–156.

Walker, M. (2017). Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. Scribner.

Worley S. L. (2018). The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 43(12), 758–763.

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