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Mental Health

Habit tracking could be the trick to keeping up with the winter semester

Let’s be real: The winter semester is hard. I don’t know about you, but one minute it’s Jan. 01 and I’m all excited for what the new year holds, and before I blink — it’s mid-February, I haven’t done a single reading and I’m knee-deep in a depression my seasonal affective disorder light can’t even fix.

So yeah, I guess my “New Year’s resolution” is to not let that happen again, but it’s been an on-and-off battle for the past year to keep up with mindfulness practices daily. This resolution comes at least once every two months, so here’s what this new semester is providing me with: Another new start.

Now, you may say, “Well, we all know you won’t keep up with this!” and you know what? You would probably be right. But, I’ve created this low pressure system to at least make trying easier.

habit tracking

I know, I know. We’ve known about habit tracking forever, it’s nothing new. But something that only just sunk in for me recently was that just because you are striving to do something every day doesn’t mean that you have to do it every day. And it’s not failing if you don’t!

According to James Clear, the best-selling author of Atomic Habits, habit tracking is the best thing you can do to ensure you actually make progress in creating a habit.

It creates a visual cue that can remind you to act.

James Clear

Clear argues that when you look at your tracker, you become motivated to do the thing, especially when you’re on a streak of actually doing it. With that said…

what to put on your habit tracker?

Depends on your goals! For me, it’s to keep up with the daily practices I know will keep my head on straight.

I created my tracker on Notion (which, if you haven’t heard of it, is the ultimate system for organizing your life), using a template that I downloaded from their website. From there, I edited the tracker to fit the habits I wanted to track: Did I move today? (and yes! That includes my walk to the mailbox, perusal at Shoppers’ Drug Mart, or the three stretches I do to fix my back that’s been destroyed from sitting at a desk with poor posture). Did I go to sleep at a respectable time? Did I read something (an article, a class reading, something from my never-ending TBR)? Did I learn something? Did I speak to someone other than my pillow or through my phone? And finally, did I write in my journal?

It sounds like a lot, I know. But on a school day, you can honestly crank through these really fast. You already get the learning one out of the way by default!

And here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if you actually do all the things every day. You don’t even have to check them off if you do complete them — remembering to open the tracker is half of my battle. But creating the tracker put this mental checklist deep into my brain. I know all the things I set goals to do. There’s a clear distinction between arbitrarily wanting to keep on top of your mental health and then actually doing the skills you know will help (and even remembering that you have skills will help, let’s be real).

It’s not going to be for everyone, just like a full-on bullet journal or diary isn’t for everyone. But a little checklist on your phone can’t hurt you, can it?

Ashley Hermalin is in third-year studying Journalism and History at Carleton. She is a proud Swiftee, lipgloss enthusiast and perfume lover. She spends her time watching the latest fashion trends, video essays, and writing for HerCampus and Jewish on Campus.
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