Monthly planning
Goal setting

Bootcamp ideas to kickstart habits and boost your happiness

If you’ve visited this blog before, you’re probably familiar with my monthly bootcamp series. (If you’re new, welcome!)

Monthly bootcamps are based on the idea that you can do anything for 30 days. If something seems impossible or overwhelming, what about doing it for only 30 days? Bootcamps can be customized to what works best for you. If you can only devote a week or a weekend to a project, that’s still bootcamp material.

Why do it? Bootcamps are excellent for kickstarting habit formation, especially for things that seem overwhelming or antithetical to your current habits. Bootcamps help you finish projects and reach goals. And bootcamps test your limits, letting you prove you can meet a challenge. Spend every day in one month digging in to find the discipline to perform one activity, every single day… then see how accomplished you feel!

Maybe you’re thinking of starting a bootcamp yourself but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some bootcamp ideas to inspire you.

Mind

Meditate: Download a meditation app like Simple Habit and practice meditating every day. Thinking meditation is too time consuming for your busy life? Check out Dan Harris’s 10% Happier for some inspiration on meditation for busy people.

Express Gratitude: At dinner, go around the table and ask everyone to contribute something they’re grateful for that day, or at the end of the day write down three things that you’re grateful for that day. I’ve only ever read studies showing the positive side effects of gratitude!

Journal daily: If you don’t go the express gratitude route, consider journaling daily. This could be one sentence, one paragraph, one page, fifteen minutes. Find what works for you.

Read: One of the most popular goals (and New Years resolutions and things people say they wish they did more in general) is to read more. Set a goal for yourself to read for 15 minutes before bed, read during your lunch break at work, read a chapter a day, or finish two books this month. Find what works best for you to reach your specific goals. You don’t need to suddenly read as much as that one woman from college who seems to post a new Goodreads review every day (I see you, Britt). You just need to find the balance that makes you feel like you’re accomplishing your goals.

Clean daily: Get on a schedule for cleaning! Spending 10-15 minutes every day on cleaning is a lot easier than spending 4-5 hours on it over your weekend. Keep things tidy and get a regular pattern going for cleaning. You’ll be amazed how much less time it you spend keeping things neat overall.

Make your bed: A lot of people swear making your bed is the number one thing you should be doing in the morning to start your day off right. Considering the number of times I come home to find Bentley has rearranged the blankets to give himself a nest, I’ve never gotten into this. If you’re like me and don’t put much energy into making your bed, this could be an easy bootcamp to see how little changes around you can potentially make big changes to your mood and health.

Money

Don’t spend money: For a full month, don’t spend any money at all. Or don’t spend money except on perishable food items. Or don’t spend money except for transportation costs and groceries. It can be a challenge, but I’ve regretted more often the things I purchased than the things I didn’t. Write down everything you wanted to spend money on but didn’t. At the end of the month, total it up. Put half in savings and use the other half to treat yourself. (Or be extra financially responsible, and put it all in savings.)

Don’t buy anything new: A riff on the previous boot camp, in this challenge you can purchase essentials–food and transportation costs. But don’t buy anything else that’s new. If you need new shoes for work, go to the thrift store. If something breaks, try to repair it. There are times you won’t be successful, but it will force you to see how much you already have that can be repurposed or saved.

Side hustle: Inflation and cost of living has been rising dramatically while worker wages are stagnant. Even people with steady 9-5 jobs are working with Uber or Lyft, renting spare bedrooms out on Airbnb, and doing whatever they can to make a buck. And this isn’t to afford extra avocado toast. If you’re looking to get ahead, save for your future, or even just be prepared in case of a medical emergency, find a side hustle for a month. Find your skills, freelance, tutor, dog sit, etc. There are two ways to save money: spend less and earn more. (Note, I’m very aware that for many side hustles are a necessity, not an option and not a “bootcamp.”)

Declutter: I’m throwing this in the financial section because after you declutter, you can host a garage sale or sell your items on Poshmark or eBay. The fact is, downsizing is so good for you. Clear space, clear mind, right? I read a Marie Kondo book a few years back that inspired a new take on clutter. Her primary concept is that you hold onto things that spark joy. I took from her book the strategies that worked for me, but most inspiring was that I finally felt I had permission to get rid of things I was only holding onto because I felt I should–bad gifts from relatives, things I hated but held onto because I knew they’d been expensive, etc. Looking for a 30-day approach? Try Pick Up Lime’s 30-day Guide to Minimalism.

Health

Water intake: Track your water intake for a month. I have always been guilty of not drinking enough water. Get yourself one of those water bottles that digitally tracks your water intake. Download an app like Plant Nanny that reminds you to drink water. You’ll have to go to the bathroom more often, but you will probably find your skin clearer and that you eat a little less when you’re full of water.

No alcohol: I love a glass of wine as much as the next girl, but alcohol can be damaging–to your health, your sleep, and your pocketbook. If you’re the sort of person who has a glass of wine once a week, you probably don’t need this bootcamp. But if you’re drinking heavily or often, consider a break. Partly just to be sure you can, partly for your health and sleep quality. More news stories are popping up about the dangers of alcohol, which go far beyond embarrassing yourself by drunk-crying at a bar.

No sugar: There are a number of foods that aren’t so great for you. But our food science is constantly in flux. What’s in trend now may not be forever, and what we assume are food truths currently may change with time and additional research. One thing that seems pretty certain from the science I’ve seen is that sugar is way over-consumed in our society. A no sugar month forces you to read food labels and discover the eye-opening truth about just how much sugar there is in pretty much every product out there! Break your sugar addiction, and suddenly vegetables like carrots and zucchini taste super sweet. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.

Whole30: Don’t embark on any dietary changes without consulting your doctor. But if you think the no sugar challenge sounds interesting, consider upgrading to a Whole30. Whole30 seeks to make you reevaluate your relationship with food and your food addictions. You’ll give up sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy, most legumes, and a number of artificial additives. It’s a great way to learn about what makes up our food, learn how to cook a variety of foods you maybe hadn’t tried before, and overall recenter your focus on health. Plus, you may find you have a food sensitivity you weren’t aware of. Finally cutting out dairy (or sugar or gluten) may be the trick to clear skin, more energy, and fewer digestive issues.

Fitness

Fitness goals take a wide variety of forms

  • Yoga every day
  • 30-day couch-to-5k program
  • Walk every day
  • Do a fitness class at a gym three times a week

The key to this–and all monthly bootcamps–is to find the approach that works for you. What are your fitness goals? What can you challenge yourself with for 30 days? And most importantly–how do you stay motivated to do it? Some people need accountability partners–a friend who will ask you how your work out went or who will walk with you during your lunch at work. If that’s you, don’t be afraid to ask!

Environment

No waste month: This sounds impossible, but some people live a 100% no-waste lifestyle. This means buying food in bulk in reusable glass jars or containers, making cleaning products and keeping them in reusable jars, etc. It’s a difficult thing to dive into, but at the very least, it would be fascinating to see exactly how much waste you produce every month and find ways to minimize it.

Fun/Hobby

What’s your hobby? Are you spending enough time on it? Crochet every day for a month. Even if you only get a few stitches in, that’s better than nothing. Are you dying to improve your dart game? Play darts every day! Whatever your hobby or interest is–scrapbooking, judo, swimming, gardening, movie trivia, graphic design, there’s a way to create a 30-day challenge for it. And even though it’s something super fun, you’ll find it can be challenging to put aside time for “fun.”

I, for one, really enjoy playing with makeup. So I’m planning a “wear a new lipstick every day for one month” and “do a new eyeshadow look every day for a month” someday down the line. My language-learning bootcamps fall into this category, forcing myself to study a language every day is something that I find super fun but also difficult to fit in.

For Others

Write a letter: Every day, take 10 minutes to write an email or letter to someone who has inspired you or made you better. The worst thing that can come of it is that they don’t read your letter. The best thing that can happen is that you renew connections and make someone’s day.

Volunteer: The number one way to increase your own happiness is to help others. Set a goal to volunteer in some way. Perhaps this isn’t a daily bootcamp, but you can volunteer every weekend in a month or you can set aside evenings 2-3 times a week. Think broadly. Volunteering can be reading to elderly people, accepting and cataloging donations at a homeless shelter, organizing a sundries drive at your workplace (diapers, feminine hygiene products, hair care products for a variety of hair types–think outside the box for items that are in high demand), record yourself reading magazines with an organization that sends books and magazines on tape to the hard-of-seeing, help at an animal shelter, etc.

Pet care: I am not always the best about brushing Bentley’s hair and teeth. If you have animals, what way can you be helping them? Maybe take longer walks, teach your animal a new trick, spend more time in care for them for a month. Obviously, this depends a lot on the sort of pet you have, but as a dog owner, I’ve found that when I’m taking care of Bentley better, I also take better care of myself.

What are some of your bootcamp ideas? Let me know if you plan to use any of these!

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