12 daily habits for computer-based workers to improve mental and physical health

If you spend 8hrs+ on a screen every day, it takes deliberate and ongoing action to promote mental and physical health… like these daily habits for computer-based workers!

A duotoned dark purple and beige version of the Apple repeat arrows emoji, in front of a light blue striped background

Building good habits into your daily routine gives you the best chance of feeling better and better in the long term.

In her book Timewise, Amantha Imber explains how habits are better than goals because they encourage continuous progress and a constant state of success (as opposed to the constant state of failure we’re in while waiting to achieve a goal).

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives

Deciding which habits to pursue depends on your abilities, preferences, and budget, but I’m sharing my 12 daily habit ideas as thought starters for you make your own.

12 daily habits and 12 months in a year. Coincidence? Nope! I suggest starting with one at a time: pick one that you vibe with, try it for a month, then at the end of the month it’s time to decide whether it’s worth keeping in your daily routine or letting go, before you pick the next one.

Most yearly challenges start on 1st January, but this one is starting on 1st April because YOU’RE NO FOOL: you know that January is an unusual month, when your days might look different to the rest of the year. Starting at the quarter-year point means your year is already in its groove, you’ve finally started writing the correct year when putting the date on forms, and you’ve forgotten what your new year’s resolutions even were. Perfect time for a lil refresh.

The 12 daily habits

I would usually say these were in no particular order because you can totally choose the order you try them in (I’m not the boss of you), but this is roughly the order I adopted them in, which seems to be working so far 😏

tl;dr:

  • Bedtime gratitude
  • Morning stretches
  • Stay hydrated
  • Contact a friend or family member
  • Daily steps
  • Newness
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Plank
  • Reduce stuff
  • Learn a language
  • Mindfulness
  • Reduce screen time

Group one: Foundations

Bedtime gratitude

This comes first because if you only only try one thing, I want it to be this.

What is it: At the end of every day, think of one thing you’re grateful for or your ‘favourite thing’ from that day — it might be something you ate, watched, did, saw, felt, a person you saw, conversation you had, or a particularly good coffee. You can say it to a partner, write it down, or just say it in your head 🤷‍♀️

Why: On good days, it reminds you of the nice things that happened and how lucky you are to have experienced them; and in doing so, you kinda get to experience them twice. On bad days, it reminds you to look for the tiniest scrap of goodness (eg. something you learnt, or something tasty you ate after a long work day).

⁠Morning stretches

What is it: 10mins of stretches every morning, immediately after getting out of bed. They can be yoga poses, or whatever you feel like your body needs that day. I usually do some combination of cat/cow, downward dog, pigeon, bridge, crab, clam shells, happy baby and “the world’s greatest stretch” (…which are all stretches and yoga poses you can Google!) 🧘‍♀️

Why: To help kick start your metabolism and circulation, particularly if you’re otherwise going to be sitting still for many hours that day.

Stay hydrated

What is it: Drink two litres of water each day. If you’re not sure how much you’re drinking, try keeping track of each glass in an app, using a knitting row counter, or with a plan ol’ piece of paper.

Why: The water itself is a no-brainer (hydration is the foundation of good health) but once I started measuring, I realised how dehydrated I’ve probably been my whole life 😬

What gets measured gets managed

Contact a friend or family member

What is it: A text message, phone call, postcard, email, or sending someone a TikTok they’ll enjoy. Choose a different person each day (or at least different to the day before) 💌

Why: As explained by Beyond Blue: “Connections matter. Strong ties with family, friends and the community provide us with happiness, security, support and a sense of purpose. Being connected to others is important for our mental and physical wellbeing and can be a protective factor against anxiety and depression.”

Group two: Level up

Daily steps

What is it: If you have a daily step goal (like 7,500 steps per day), your smartphone can probably tell you how often you’re hitting it, but since we don’t actually count steps while we’re walking it’s helpful to think of your daily steps as a time-based goal, like aim for “60 minutes of walking each day”. 🚶‍♀️

Why: Walking is one of the simplest ways to get incidental movement, such as going on a long walk before or after work, getting off your tram a stop early, choosing to walk somewhere instead of driving, or taking a short lap of the block when you need a reset during your workday. Even walking from room to room in your house often enough can add up!

⁠Newness

What is it: Do something you’ve never done before, walk a different route, eat two flavours you haven’t combined before, wear two items that don’t go together, learn a new skill, wear a new outfit, or listen to new music ‼️

Why: Novelty provides us with dopamine, or in other words: newness makes us happy!

Vitamins and supplements

What is it: This one depends entirely on your individual situation*, but if you have specific dietary supplement needs then a habit tracking system might be helpful to monitor what you’re taking, eg. I use one of the coloured daily pill boxes to keep track of what I’ve taken when.

Why: If you have a genuine need for supplements, then having a tracking system can help monitor that you’re only taking the amount you need. Always seek advice from a doctor before taking supplements.

*An interesting podcast on the topic explained, “I would say that the general population should not be advised to take dietary supplements. But whether the specific subgroups may benefit needs to be further studied. This would include pregnant women, lactating women which are excluded from this study. It could also include people with chronic health conditions that may impact the ability to absorb nutrients from foods adequately. It could also include people with certain dietary practices such as vegetarians and vegans.” (from ‘Dietary supplements won’t help you live longer’). There’s some useful information on the Better Health Channel website too (‘Vitamin and mineral supplements – what to know’)

Plank

What is it: Start with a 30 second plank on the first day, and build up to 2 minutes over the month. I like to do this one at lunch time, or during a morning/afternoon break. If planking is not your thing, this could be push ups, squats, skipping, or some other kind of movement 💪

Why: A full-blown exercise class is not always possible, so having a baseline of 2 minutes movement in your day helps undo long stretches of sitting.

Group three: mastery

These are the things that I’m still working on adopting, but initial results are promising…

Reduce stuff

What is it: Throw away or re-home one item each day ♻️

Why: Most of us are pretty excellent at bringing new things into our life, but not-so-much about letting go of the old stuff. Getting into the habit of regularly removing things teaches us how much we genuinely need (ahem, or don’t), and ultimately encourages us to buy less.

Bonus tip: apply the same logic to your to-do list, either at home or at work by asking, “is there something on this list that no longer needs to be there?”

Learn a language

What is it: Bite sized language lessons (or some other type of learning, if language is not your thing). The Duolingo app is good for doing this little by little each day 🇪🇸

Why: Learning a new language is good for your brain. Don’t just take my word for it though, see ‘7 benefits of learning a new language’ and ‘7 reasons to learn a foreign language’

Mindfulness

What is it: This doesn’t have to be straight meditation, you can mindfully eat, brush teeth, get dressed, etc ☮️

Why: According to one 2022 study, “Mindfulness has been linked to numerous health benefits, such as reduced risk for anxiety and depression, and increased prosocial behaviors. Mindfulness may also help workers become more attuned to the feelings and needs of colleagues, helping cultivate a healthier, more meaningful relationship with work.”

Reduce screen time

What is it: Aiming for less and less (non-work) screen time every day, backwards gamifying if you will! 👾

Why: According to the Mayo Clinic, reducing screen time can improve your physical health, free up time to have fun playing and exploring, make social connections, boost your mood and build community.

Recap

Here’s a handy recap of the 12 daily habits you might want to try:

  • Bedtime gratitude
  • Morning stretches
  • Stay hydrated
  • Contact a friend or family member
  • Daily steps
  • Newness
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Plank
  • Reduce stuff
  • Learn a language
  • Mindfulness
  • Reduce screen time

And if you liked this one, you might like our other posts on habits and wellness: