a peek inside the fishbowl

29 Nov, 2018

Two tiny habits that have had a big impact on my mental health

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

I’ve written a lot about habits in past blog posts. Some of you already know that I have a small collection of daily habits that I’ve tweaked over time. I know what works for me. I know they work because if I drop the ball, I feel it. My daily routines include a 30-45 minute power walk (which I’ve now moved to the treadmill because of lousy weather), a blast of S.A.D. light, and a mix of vitamins (doctor’s orders). Of course, eating well and not going overboard with sugar, beer, and coffee, figures into that as well, but admittedly, that is harder to moderate.

My daily habits work well when I’m feeling good, but they become especially important during down days. The irony is that when I need my habits the most, it’s precisely the time they are hardest to keep.

I’ve added two other tiny habits to my life that have been making a difference, especially on those down days. Don’t laugh, but I’ve realized that the simple act of making the bed, and cleaning the bathroom sinks on a daily basis (!) makes me happier.

I’ve thought a lot about WHY these things make me happier and it’s because both of these things come with a distinct feeling of accomplishment even though they’re quick and easy. In a way, I’m tricking myself. As I’m doing these things, part of me tells myself: “SELF, if you can do these two things today, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.” Strangely, it works.

Making the bed every day never used to be a priority for me. I’d happily leave it exactly the way we left it in the morning. After all, we’re just going to mess it up again, right? But the feeling of sliding into a nicely made bed at the end of a long day is so satisfying that I decided to take two minutes every morning so I can be guaranteed that good feeling when it was time to hit the hay.

The bed is made

As you can see, I’m not fussy about HOW the bed is made, it’s just made. (Please just don’t look under the bed because the dust bunnies might shock you.)

As for cleaning the bathroom sinks every day, this is something I added to my daily routine a few weeks ago when Mark was sick with a cold. I really didn’t want to catch it so I was very motivated to clean the faucets, sinks, and counter. I always keep a spray cleaner and a microfibre cloth under the sinks anyway, so it actually isn’t much effort on my part. It really only takes me a minute to spray and wipe.

Every time I walk in there during the day I marvel at how clean the sinks are. Everything else is another story, but WOW, are my faucets shiny! I ROCK AT THIS.

I now wipe the sinks every morning, whether they need it or not. It’s a small habit, but it’s made a difference. It’s strange to say but it’s made a big difference to my mental health as well.

Perhaps this is just a case of small victories, after all, ANYONE can make the bed and wipe the sink, but small victories matter… and sometimes we have to take ’em wherever we can find ’em.

What do you think? Do you make your bed? If not, would you consider making it for seven days to see how it feels?

6 Responses to "Two tiny habits that have had a big impact on my mental health"

1 | Jenn

November 29th, 2018 at 2:03 pm


I have made my bed every day all my life!!!
The one day you are allowed to ‘not’ make your bed is your birthday and I’ll admit that I have even made my bed on my birthday simply because it makes me happy! You might enjoy this video:

2 | Jacquelyn

November 29th, 2018 at 4:33 pm


I’ve recently started vacuuming the kitchen and dining room floors every day. Previously, I would go weeks (!) between vacuumings. This was prompted by being gifted a super-handy stick vacuum. I thought the novelty of whizzing around the vacuum might wear off quickly, but it hasn’t. I absolutely love having clean and tidy floors. It makes me feel relaxed.

3 | Natalie Robichaud

November 29th, 2018 at 6:24 pm


I always make my bed. It’s a small to do checked off the list and I like getting into a bed that’s made at night.

What SAD light do you use?

4 | Donna

November 30th, 2018 at 3:38 am


Thanks for this!! I am going to start this morning. One day at a time right.

5 | Amy

December 1st, 2018 at 11:57 pm


I always make the bed, partly because my mom was a stickler for it growing up and partly because I make it easy to do. I have to have the sheets tucked to just the right height or it bothers me and I can’t sleep, which makes it easy to pull them up and make it in the morning. Minor OCD for the win?

I agree that it’s the little things that can give you a good feeling, or can weigh on you. I recently moved to an acreage that’s on well water and we haven’t adjusted the water softener properly yet, so there’s constantly a rime of salt on all the taps. It bothers me every time I see it but there’s no point cleaning it because it’ll be back 5 minutes later.

6 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive I resolve to resolve - a peek inside the fishbowl

January 3rd, 2019 at 3:12 pm


[…] going to keep the blather to a minimum. I will say this: I am doubling down on my resolve to keep my daily habits. I am also undertaking a Dry January and started a Facebook group for gentle support and […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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