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You sold all your stuff. You said farewell (for now) to friends, family and your home town. Now you live in a box on wheels that might be 1/10th of the size of your previous home. How can good habits help make your RV life easier and better?
Good habits remove some of the chaos
The scenario above is turning your world upside down. For a lot of people they are changing everything they know and are comfortable with to start living in an RV. There are many rewards and a lot of excitement possible in the future. But at first it could be terrifying and feel like complete chaos.
However, if you have a routine in place that includes good habits, this is your anchor in the storm of unfamiliarity. Being in new places and getting used to a new home won’t seem as scary if you know you still have your daily routine.
Many people who start the RV life are also leave behind jobs or careers. They either start new ones, or have a business, or a combination of the two. And of course there are things you must do in an RV that you probably didn’t do before (like emptying your waste tanks and plugging/unplugging your house for power). But you still have to eat, bathe, sleep and run errands. If you have your good habits in place for basic stuff, you can build in a routine for the new stuff around it.
If you want a peek at some things I have in my daily routine, see my post about Work and Travel: How to Keep Productive While Traveling.
Good habits reduce stress
The body and mind like routine. Even if habits are unhealthy, you probably still have a routine made of bad habits, and rewarding yourself for this behavior, without realizing it (more about that in a minute). But which do you think is less stressful on your body: going to bed at the same time every night and getting a full night’s sleep, or staying up until you can’t keep your eyes open and dragging yourself out of bed 4 hours later while you are still tired?
Or how about a routine that includes coffee, doughnuts and a cigarette for breakfast versus a bowl of oatmeal and fresh fruit?
Sitting on the sofa watching TV all night or taking a walk after dinner?
Some things may feel better than others (at the time–see below about rewards). But I guarantee over the long haul, poor habits add stress and make you feel worse. It’s cumulative. The last thing you need when you’re trying something new is to have other aspects of your life add to your stress.
The definition of a habit
A habit is anything you do routinely. There are usually 3 parts to a habit:
- The cue or trigger
- The act of the habit itself (can be physical or mental)
- The reward
The combination of these 3 things, done in repetition, becomes unconscious or unintentional. Here are some examples:
- Bad habit: You have a bad day at work (trigger). You buy and eat a bag of chips (habit). The food makes you feel better (reward).
- Good habit: You feel restless (trigger). You go for a walk (habit). It helps you clear your head and calms you (reward).
- Bad habit: Your good-looking, fit, well-dressed friend (or nemesis?) comes into the room. It makes you feel self-conscious and less attractive being in the same room (trigger).In your agitated state, you start biting your nails. (habit), which brings you comfort and gives you something else to focus on (reward).
- Good habit: You feel hungry in the middle of the afternoon (trigger). You eat a snack of nuts and fruit (habit). You feel satiated and have better energy (reward).
How to create good habits
For the longest time, I tried and failed to create an exercise routine. I get exercise, but it’s been very sporadic and dependent upon our location. On the west coast it wasn’t uncommon for me to ride my bike for an hour or two, 3-5 times per week.
Since we left the west coast my exercise was less consistent and mostly involved walking/hiking. Which is great, but not a complete workout. Even walking is sporadic here in the Catskill Mountains, because it’s either humid and raining or humid and hot. Not huge motivators for going for a walk.
I realized I needed a way to exercise regardless of where I am, and a way to turn it into a good habit. I just finished reading a terrific book called The Healthy Habit Revolution: Create Better Habits in 5 Minutes a Day by Derek Doepker. The book helped me realize that my habit goals were too big–meaning I was trying to develop a complex habit, not a simple one. It’s easier to start with a simple, single habit and build from there.
How my new good habit is working
Over the course of the month, I went from exercising for 30 seconds per day (simple habit) to 20 minutes per day (2 10-minute sessions) (this is a more complex habit). My goal is to move this to 3 10 minute-sessions per day of high-intensity exercise. The routine is indoors, doesn’t need special equipment and I can do it in a small space. The idea is to create a micro-habit, which is something you can easily do every day, even on your worst day. No matter how bad I feel or how crunched for time, I can squeeze in 30 seconds of exercise.
You also have to create a reward that includes a sense of accomplishment. I can say I exercised every day for the past 30+ days. It’s something I’m proud of and feel I can easily keep doing. Derek’s book goes into rewards, and you can also do an internet search on good, simple rewards you can give yourself each day immediately following your good habit.
The other key is to create a habit from something you are very interested in and really want to do, not something you think you should do. I really want to exercise more, because it is a long-term goal of mine to be fit and strong with lots of lean muscle. So for me, choosing exercise as my new good habit is a good fit. But for someone who has no interest in exercise or its potential benefits, an exercise goal likely to fail to become a habit.
Where most people fail in creating good habits
I don’t want to give away all the secrets in Derek’s book. It’s an easy read that really only takes you a few minutes per day, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to create good habits in simple steps. But there are some important things he talks about that can reduce the chance of failure that are worth sharing right now. Here are some more valuable insights:
- Don’t try to just drop bad habits, replace them with good ones. You need something to fill the gap or you will fall back into your old habit.
- Use reminders to make sure you perform your good habit every day.
- Make sure you keep a reward in place, and have one that doesn’t go against the goal of your habit (so I don’t eat candy as my reward for exercise).
- Pat yourself on the back for your consistency and good work.
- To ease the transition from bad habits to good habits, keep the same trigger and reward, just replace the habit itself.
- Don’t think of your good habit as something you “have” to do but rather something to look forward to. As in, “I just finished an hour of work on the computer and now I get to exercise as a reward.” Making the habit itself rewarding is very important to retaining it as a routine.
- Don’t try to create too many good habits at once. Starting with one is a good way to prevent overwhelm.
One last thing I want to mention from Derek’s book. He talks about is how his own fitness habit helped create discipline to form other good habits in his life, like writing books and reading about personal development. His exercise habit taught him how to push past discomfort to reach goals. This is another reason why I chose exercise as my new good habit. But I imagine once you successfully integrate any new good habit into your life, adding more using the same method will be easier.
Good habits in RV life
There are things specific to RV living that will definitely make your life easier.
- When setting up camp or breaking camp, always do things in the same order so you don’t forget anything. Make and refer to a checklist if needed.
- Create a good habit of scheduling inspection and maintenance of your RV.
- Have a designated place for everything you keep in your RV. Keep it in its spot and/or return it there after each use.
- Set up a travel schedule that includes enough time for meal breaks and rest breaks.
- If something needs fixing, do it right away before it gets worse.
- Have routines for specific situations: for example, while you’re filling up the gas tank, check your tires and clean the windows.
- Practice proper hygiene when dealing with your waste tanks–never touch raw sewage with your bare hands. This means protecting your hands when touching your sewer hose and washing hands when finished. We keep gloves in our utilities bay to make this as convenient as possible.
- Use organization techniques and accessories to give you fewer things to move, pack up and secure when you need to travel. I’ll show you my methods in a future post.