Habits, Routines, and Planning

Human beings are often described as “creatures of habit.” In fact, nearly 40% of our day is filled with repetition (Rubin, 2015). Habits allow us to reach certain goals without having to really think about the steps we are taking. Healthy habits are vital in maintaining wellness because they become a natural part of our day-to-day (e.g., sleep, exercise, nutritional intake). Essentially, when healthy behavior becomes a habit, it is inherently embedded in our daily lives. Behaviors must be a regular part of our routines before becoming a true effortless habit (Eyal, 2019). Notably, habits can take more than 60 days to develop (Lally et al., 2010). Thus, we must initially purposefully change our routines to incorporate the eight dimensions of wellness. A critical step in establishing healthy routines is to generate a plan. The first stage in wellness planning is to intentionally recognize your own habits. Some may need to be changed, and new habits may need to be introduced. Ultimately, the goal is to establish healthy habits, occurring without the need for extensive thought.

But how can people, especially those in service or first responder professions, address all eight dimensions of wellness in their already hectic lives?

The key is to focus on one dimension for one week and implement one small wellness-related action item every day to start. The next week, focus on another, and the following week another, for a total of eight weeks. Below is an example of what your personal wellness-focused plan can look like. The most important aspect of planning is to make sure it is individual to your life and that you give it an honest effort for two months. As you work to address each dimension, these new routines will eventually become healthy habits, naturally part of your daily lives. Below are some examples of ways that you can slowly begin incorporating the eight dimensions into your daily routines:

Week 1: Focus on Social Wellness

  • Day 1: Smile and say hello to everyone you see or meet
  • Day 2: Call a friend or family member to say hi for 5 minutes
  • Day 3: Call a different friend or family member to say hi for 5 minutes
  • Day 4: Text a sibling, parent, or close relative to check-in
  • Day 5: Invite friend to get coffee and catch up for 30 minutes
  • Day 6: Go on a frozen yogurt date with a family member
  • Day 7: Take co-worker up on offer to run together


Week 2: Focus on Physical Wellness

  • Day 1: Wake up 10 minutes early to meditate
  • Day 2: Try 10 minute yoga YouTube video
  • Day 3: Do 5 counts of your favorite exercise when you feel stressed
  • Day 4: Eat 7 servings of vegetables
  • Day 5: Try a new workout
  • Day 6: Go to bed 30 minutes early
  • Day 7: Meditate during lunchtime


Week 3: Focus on Intellectual Wellness

  • Day 1: Start small jigsaw puzzle and do it during down times
  • Day 2: Color a page in kid’s coloring book
  • Day 3: Work on puzzle
  • Day 4: Sign up for a webinar on a topic you are interested in
  • Day 5: Work on puzzle
  • Day 6: Expand knowledge on subject with online article
  • Day 7: Work on puzzle


Week 4: Focus on Emotional Wellness

  • Day 1: Write down 3 things you’re grateful for today
  • Day 2: Sit and reflect on positives of the day for 10 minutes
  • Day 3: 3 things you’re grateful for today
  • Day 4: Vent and write for 10 minutes about things that went wrong today
  • Day 5: 3 things you’re grateful for today
  • Day 6: Tell someone thank you and mean it
  • Day 7: Journal about 3 things you’re grateful for today


Week 5: Focus on Financial Wellness

  • Day 1: Go over this month’s budget and update spending each day
  • Day 2: Identify 3 potential ways to make additional income
  • Day 3: Search for recipes to meal plan
  • Day 4: Donate $10 to a worthy charity
  • Day 5: No Spending Day
  • Day 6: Read up on 529 vs ESA for college savings(if applicable)
  • Day 7: Do not eat out at all for a day (including coffee, meals, and snacks)


Week 6: Focus on Occupational Wellness

  • Day 1: Brainstorm trainings that would improve work performance
  • Day 2: Find a free/low-cost class on above topic and sign up
  • Day 3: Sign up for a webinar that interests you and sign up
  • Day 4: Think about a “hard day” and journal or reflect on what you learned from the experience
  • Day 5: Write down 3 things you like about your job
  • Day 6: Create 6- and 12-month work goals
  • Day 7: Create a plan to reach those goals


Week 7: Focus on Environmental Wellness

  • Day 1: Walk for minimum of 15 minutes outside (rain or shine)
  • Day 2: No social media for 24 hours
  • Day 3: Walk for 15 minutes outside
  • Day 4: Start a compost pile
  • Day 5: No social media for 24 hours
  • Day 6: Walk for 15 minutes outside
  • Day 7: Plant flowers in potor garden


Week 8: Spiritual Wellness

  • Day 1: Read bible chapter, or other religious works
  • Day 2: Volunteer somewhere new
  • Day 3: Watch or attend a service
  • Day 4: Journal about your true purpose in life
  • Day 5: Volunteer at homeless organization
  • Day 6: Speak with a spiritual leader (e.g., priest or pastor)
  • Day 7: Write down ways to reinforce your purpose in life

These are just general ideas to get you started, so be sure to tailor the plan to you and your life. The more we try new action items related to wellness, the more we find things that work. The more we identify what works for us, the more likely we are to do it consistently. Remember, consistency is key.

Wellness As An Ongoing Process

It is important to note that wellness is not a destination. Instead, wellness is a journey that requires ongoing effort and commitment to maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Rather than a one-time goal, wellness is a lifelong process of self-discovery, self-improvement, and self-efficacy. Wellness for first responders is essential. The greatest gift you can give yourself, your loved ones, and those you serve is a healthy you. Goal setting is a crucial step in ensuring that you remain consistent. Set personal, realistic short and long-term goals for your wellness. It is also important to remain open to different techniques, activities, foods, and stress management strategies. Wellness goals will evolve as you progress through your lives and careers. Staying motivated and adapting to certain hurdles that may interrupt our plan is critical. As shifts change, or your children join a new soccer team that practices on Tuesday nights when you usually work out, it is essential that you proactively identify ways to adjust your routine and eventually create new habits. With an understanding and awareness of the factors involved in wellness, you can refine plans and identify new ways to maintain that positive, healthy state.



Eyal, N. (2019). Indistractable: How to control your attention and choose your life. BenBella Books.

Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674

Rubin, G. (2015). Better than before. Mastering the habits of our everyday lives. Crown Publishers.