Habits, we all have them. Good, bad, favourable… not-so-favourable. But then there's the habits that we wish we adopted. You know the ones, they usually come into fruition around 1st of January, and then fade out shortly after. We tell ourselves we’re going to learn a new language, exercise daily, or eat healthier meals. But somewhere along the line, they just don’t seem to happen. So what’s the secret? Read on to find out how we can make those habits stick.
First thing’s first, what is a habit?
There’s only one person to ask about this. So, we chatted to Beingwell’s Cognitive Scientist and Thinkingwell Expert, and this is what she said:
Habits are our routines, what we are used to doing in our everyday living, regardless of whether we actively choose them or we just pursue them because “we have always acted like this". But, habits are also our inclinations and dispositions, the way we live and express our being, the way we want to be. Habits are the way we dress-up our mind. We can refresh ourselves by getting new clothes, as long as they fit us. The same is when we form new habits.
This ain’t no 30 day challenge
We often hear of 30 day challenges, usually in the fitness industry. Or that codswallop that it takes 21 days for a habit to become routine. Hmm, we’re not so sure about that. Actually, you can read our thoughts about how long it takes to build new habits by reading this blog. Like with everything when it comes to wellbeing, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. So for someone who wants to start getting up at 5am every morning, might have a harder time than the next. Or if a healthy habit for you is spending 15 minutes meditating, it’ll be harder for some and easier for others. We have to work out what’s best for us, and go from there.
We might have a cheat sheet for you
That being said, we do have one idea that might help you to adopt those habits you desperately want in your daily routine. Start by working out exactly what it is you want to start doing more of. Is it moving more? Eating cleaner? Learning a new skill? Reading more books? Whatever it is, make sure it’s clear in your head so you can focus on it. And definitely go one at a time! Trying to implement multiple new habits in our lives will most likely get confusing and we’ll end up making no progress! Remember, small steps.
Once you know exactly what it is you want to create a habit out of, think about when in the day you’d like to do it. For example, if it’s a morning walk, maybe opt for the morning. If it’s reading, maybe you’d prefer to do this before bed. If you want to learn to juggle, maybe your lunch break is best for you. This, of course, will be different for everyone, so focus on doing it at a time that works for you. If your lunch breaks are complete havoc as it is, maybe choose a more quiet time like before you start work or on your commute (if you’re not driving!).
Now you have your what and when, think of something you do around the time you would like to implement your new habit. An example might be, if you want to start reading before bed, think of something you are currently doing around the time before you go to bed. Is it watching TV? Brushing your teeth? Something you do without fail every single day around this time. If it’s in the morning, maybe it’s making the bed, getting dressed or making your morning pick-me-up.
Hopefully, you can see where this is going. An easy way to make our habits part of our daily routine, something we do without even thinking about it - because that’s what we’re aiming for here, right? - is attaching it to something that is already a habit. Like for example, brushing our teeth or making dinner. Something we do without a doubt every single day. By attaching something we want to start doing with something we already do makes it easier for the new habit to stick.
The sky's the limit
And the possibilities are endless! Who says you can’t squeeze in some star jumps, push ups or crunches whilst the kettle boils? Why can’t you learn 15 minutes of Spanish whilst you wait for the oven timer to ding? And no one ever complained about meditating on their lunch break! Trial and error is key here. Your habit might not stick on the first go, maybe it’s better attached to another thing you do daily. Keep trying, and see if you can find a way that works for you.
Final thoughts: Practising a new habit in this way makes it become automatic, just like the thing we’re attaching it with. After time, we’ll associate the two, making it a much easier transition than just jumping head first into it with no consideration first!