I’ll be honest, this post doesn’t have anything to do with food. But I’ve found that a lot of my lovely readers who follow me on Instagram (you can find me here) particularly engage with me over my posts about my mental health, which is something I’ve been trying to speak about more openly – so this blog is a bit more of that.
If you do follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my recent posts about DayDisc, a beautiful new take on an activity tracker created by a couple of friends of mine (they’ve just launched a Kickstarter, so if you like what you read, please do go and find out more – you can also nab yourself one of the very first DayDiscs for a one-off price). I’ve been experimenting with different ways to use my DayDisc to boost my mental health and I have to admit, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results. Over the years, I’ve built up a list of healthy habits that I know make me feel good – getting outside for fresh air every day, getting regular exercise, journaling, taking proper downtime, and plenty more – but I’ve never tried tracking these things. I’m definitely not a Fitbit person, and something about the idea of entering it all into an app, for example, feels like it puts a lot of pressure on these good habits, which is definitely counterproductive.
The DayDisc, though, is a completely different kind of tracker. It won’t beep at you in irritation when you don’t do things, or tell you disapprovingly at the end of the day that you didn’t meet your goals. It won’t keep reminding you of the goal you set confidently at the beginning of the month when you were feeling great, on days where you’re struggling.
Instead, it’s a beautiful piece of jewellery that you wear round your neck, where you’ll notice and remember it often, and each time you do something that you want to track, you move one of the little magnets round the twelve grooves on the edge. It’s a quiet, thoughtful way to become aware of and make space for the habits you want to increase. For anxious, fidgety people like me, it’s also a gorgeously tactile thing. The disc itself is pleasingly heavy in your hand. The tiny magnets click satisfyingly into the grooves, and you can also spin them inside the grooves without removing them, something I find myself doing often. I actually have two magnets on my DayDisc at the moment – a silver one for tracking, and a gold one for fiddling (so I don’t inadvertently mess up the tracking). But each time I fiddle with it, it also reminds me that I could try something else – one of my tried and tested good habits – to soothe my anxiety too.
When it comes to what you track, the only limit is your imagination – plus, of course, it doesn’t need to be the same thing every day. I decided to try out four different things to track, and see which ones I might like to turn into regular habit-building practice.
At the end of last year, I took part in a gratitude challenge on Instagram, posting something each day in response to a prompt word. It felt like a positive challenge to set myself at the end of, let’s be honest, a pretty terrible year, and I was amazed at the difference it made, consciously choosing to be grateful for something every day. When I got my DayDisc, the first thing I wanted to try was more conscious gratitude.
Over the course of a day, I moved the magnet each time I noticed something to be particularly grateful for – blue skies and sunshine, my little boy making me laugh, the view from our flat, the play park round the corner, a cup of tea in my favourite mug. Once I started I couldn’t stop, and I definitely came up with more than twelve moments of gratitude throughout the day, but to be honest in this case the actual numbers weren’t relevant. The simple act of tracking with my DayDisc made me remember to actively look for things to be grateful for, and made them stand out more clearly in my memories of the day. This one was definitely a success, and something I’ll be doing again.
By contrast, this is a very simple one, but sometimes it is the really simple things, like not drinking enough water or eating proper meals, that make a big difference to our mental health. I do make an effort to drink plenty of water throughout the day, because I’ve noticed that being a bit dehydrated definitely makes me feel rubbish, but I thought it would be good to try a stricter routine. I moved the magnet each time I finished a glass – which was a good thing in itself, because I often end up pouring myself a glass of water but not finishing it.
I didn’t make it to 12 glasses by the end of the day, but of course it isn’t essential to pick something that you want to do exactly 12 times every day – as with the moments of gratitude, just the act of tracking my water drinking meant I was more aware of doing it.
I have a busy, active toddler at home and run my own business during his naptimes, so I think it’s fair to say my days are pretty full. I do make an effort to get proper downtime into my routine, but there isn’t often time to take a whole hour to myself and really get stuck into a book (my preferred method of putting my brain into airplane mode), so I wanted to experiment with taking micro breaks throughout the day.
I challenged myself to take 12 quick breaks. During each one, I would breathe in for a count of four and out for a count of seven (a very simple breathing exercise I learnt years ago that makes a huge difference to my anxiety) and repeat this five times. It felt really good to be making time for myself throughout the day, even if it was only for an minute at a time, and taking a moment to notice and release tension in my body made a big difference. I’ll definitely do this one again.
I feel lucky that I don’t have to sit behind a desk for the entire day, but keeping up with my toddler means I’m constantly getting down on the floor and up again, picking him up and putting him down, carrying a rucksack full of supplies, and plenty of other things besides, and I often feel a little creaky at the end of the day! I’ve been meaning to get back into yoga for ages but just haven’t found the time – so I thought adding 60 second stretch breaks to my day might be a good alternative.
I found a great channel on YouTube called Open Awareness Yoga, which offers a variety of different stretches for different parts of the body that can be done in 60 seconds, and I tried a couple for the back and shoulders throughout my day. This felt really good – it might be my favourite out of all the daily challenges, and I’m absolutely going to do this more.
Would you like to build better habits into your day? Are you intrigued by the DayDisc? You can find out more on their website, and don’t forget to visit their Kickstarter where you can get some brilliant rewards, including ordering your DayDisc for a discounted price.