I've got the Blues on Blue Monday!


Today, the 3rd Monday in January is known as Blue Monday when many people feel at the lowest, depressed and unhappy. This is supposedly due to some factors occurring at a similar time which include Christmas being a fading memory, payday still a week away,January bills coming through, rest of the year still to go through, high hoped resolutions broken, cold, gloomy weather, government uncertainty on Brexit and such factors.

Ways to combat Blue Monday….

  • Realise that today is also a Super Red Moon not to be repeated for 10 years

  • Seeing the beauty of nature ( I saw a gaggle of geese fly in V formation overhead)

  • Write down 3 things that your are grateful for

  • Write down 3 things that would make today great

  • Write done 3 things you are looking forward to this year (family weddings, holiday, get together etc)

  • Take a moment to enjoy mindfulness and focus on your breathing, do a short body scan, a mindful walk or mindful eating

  • Read and share an inspiring quote e.g “Every day may not be a good day, but there is good in every day”

  • Read and share an inspiring story

  • Tell a joke

  • Laugh out loud for no reason

  • Call a friend, have chat

  • Get together for a coffee or meal with a friend or family member

  • Give a donation to a good cause (time or money)

  • Cuddle a dog

  • Do an act of kindness

  • Do 5 star jumps, some exercise

  • Attend the last day of Museum of Happiness, Winter Happiness Festival and take part in a Sound Bath

What are some of the ways you can think of ?


Happy Habits mindmap.jpg

Habits run our life.

They can serve us or dis-empower us.  They can be 40% of our behaviour in any given day. We can have bad habits or good habits. Cultivate good, positive habits that serve and empower you.

By definition a habit is “An action or decision repeated and repeated till automatic”. It is moving from the conscious mind to the subconscious.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit
— Aristotle

One of my favourite books and one that has had a big influence on me is Stephen Covey’s fantastic book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. He defines “A habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to, why to), skills (how to) and desire (want to)”. All three must exist - the knowledge of what to do and why to do it, the skills on how to do it and the desire to want to do it.


He highlights 7 Habits for Lessons in Personal Change. These Habits are:

  1. Be Proactive - The Habit of Choice

  2. Begin with the End in Mind - The Habit of Vision

  3. Think First Things First - The Habit of Integrity and Execution

  4. Think Win-Win - The Habit of Mutual Benefit

  5. Seek First to Understand and then to be Understood - The Habit of Mutual Understanding

  6. Synergize - The Habit of Creative Cooperation

  7. Sharpen the Saw - The Habit of Renewal


A habit has 3 key components :

  1. A cue or trigger / reminder

  2. An action of routine

  3. A reward

This is the habit loop - a cue occurs that leads to an action and then a reward and then this is repeated and repeated.

For example, with the smoking habit

Cue - Feeling of stress and work colleagues going outside for a break

Action - Take cigarette, light and smoke it, chat with work colleagues have a break

Reward - Feeling less stressed, social connection, be outside

Another example, taking a mindful moment

Cue - Feeling of stress or overwhelm

Action - Take a moment outside to go for a mindful walk, focusing on your breath or each step

Reward - feeling less stressed, be outside

Action: Identify the Cue, Action and Reward in one of your dis-empowering and one empowering habit


One type of habit is the Keystone Habit. A Keystone Habit is one that leads to the development of multiple good habits. They start a chain effect of positive results. According to Charles Duhigg, “The Power of Habit” , keystone habits have the power to transform your life. An example is regular exercise also fosters better eating habits. Or sleeping 8 hours a night fosters better energy and productivity.

The name Keystone comes from the building of an arch. The last stone, a wedge shaped one to be put in place at the apex is the keystone (or capstone) which locks all the others in place, providing structure and allowing the other stones to bear the weight.

Goals set a target/direction, like a Sat Nav. Habits help us progress towards the goal. It is the process /action/decision
— Shaileen Shah


Think small, easy, tiny, atomic actions/ habits. This is related to the idea of marginal gains, small changes done each day that over time compound (See books The Slight Edge and The Compound Effect).  The British Cycling team used this idea to make small changes in all areas that led to great success. E.g teaching cyclists how to thoroughly wash hands to avoid infection, change in bike material to be marginally lighter, taking cyclists bed mattresses and pillows to hotels so they feel at home and rested.

Some more examples of atomic steps

  • for exercise to get to 20 push ups a day, choose and commit to 1 push up each day.

  • For dental hygiene choose and commit to 1 tooth flossed each day.

  • For reading choose and commit to read 1 page each day.

These should be easy to do, take little time and are foundations to add to and build from as progress and momentum is made.


Layout your tools, supplies, equipment.

  • For running have running shoes and gym bag by bed or door.

  • For reading have book by bedside or in daily bag.

  • For a dis-empowering habit such as smoking cigarettes do the opposite - make the action difficult to do e,g put cigarette pack in a locked box, outside of house in far corner of garden and give key to friend who lives 30 minutes away.

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going
—  Jim Rohn

As we repeatedly do something the neurons in the brain fire and wire so with repetition new wiring / pathways are created which become stronger and replace the previous created ones.

Repetition is the mother of skill
— Tony Robbins


We can have goals and habits in all aspects of our life including: Relationships, Work/Career, Family, Health, Spiritual & Financial.

Here are some guidelines to help build successful, positive, empowering habits.

  • Identify a cue or cues e.g. Set a time and location, use phone reminder, post it note

  • Think small, easy, tiny, atomic actions/ habits.

  • Set yourself up for success - create environment, layout supplies

  • Have a partner or community who are also working on same things

  • Pick yourself up if you fall, get back on track

  • Celebrate the successes

It takes 21 days to create a habit, 90 days to create a lifestyle.

Jerry Seinfeld the comic has reportedly used a yearly wall planner to develop his habit of writing a joke each day of the year. Each day he writes a joke and then marks a cross on his planner. This visual cue and action becomes the habit where he does not want to break the chain. For effective habit formation - monitoring and measured are needed. As the saying goes “What gets measured gets done”.

Consider your existing habits and ones you want to develop …

What is the cue?

What already existing Habit/Cue can I link this with?

What is the action?

What is the reward?

What are the obstacles I may face?

How will I overcome the obstacles?


My keystone habit is the daily practice of gratitude, actively and consistently since the start of 2017. This has supported additional habits of:

  • daily journaling using a happiness journal,

  • regular reading and study,

  • Mindfulness & meditation (Monthly Awakin circles - Awakin.org)

  • exercise - playing badminton twice a week, walking, swimming and sauna,

  • regular prayer and service.

I have developed habits in the areas of Physical, Mental, Social/Emotional and Spiritual, these help me lead a happy, effective, productive and meaningful life. I wish you the same.

“Sow a thought, reap an action,

Sow an action, reap a habit,

Sow a habit, reap a character,

Sow a character, reap a destiny”

Shaileen, with Vicky Johnson and Shamash Alidina, the founders of the Museum of Happiness are sharing a Habits of Happiness workshop at the Winter Happiness Festival.

Content Sources for article

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey

The Slight Edge - Jeff Olson

The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg

Atomic Habits - James Clear

The Compound Effect - Darren Hardy

How to develop better habits in 2019 - Ryan Holiday