Make it a Habit

Isn’t is so difficult to take on a new healthy habit?  And by healthy I mean healthy for mind, body, and soul – things that we do for our own self development and care.  We might do that new thing a couple times before resorting back to our old behaviors. 

It’s important to be intentional when starting a new routine or habit you’d like to implement when you initially begin; otherwise you will be where you have always been so it’s time to take intentional action. 

Many people find it helpful to take on something new with another person or group for accountability and support.  Some prefer to share it with people close to them for support.  And yet others put it on a vision board or post it and make their declarations a daily visible reminder.

Any way you do it is a good to state your intention… but to help it stick is behavior change.

Habit stacking is helpful to begin a new routine or habit.

Habit stacking is deciding on a habit you do every day and then stacking a new behavior on top of it. Your current habit becomes the trigger for your new one.

You would write in your journal your habit stacking intention: After (current habit), I will (new habit). Example: After I brush my teeth before bed, I think of one positive thing that happened today.

Rewarding yourself immediately after your new behavior also helps it stick and encourages you to keep at it.  A reward doesn’t have to be a new pair of shoes (although it could but you’ll soon fill up your closet).  A reward can simply be taking a moment to notice the positive feeling you received upon completing the new behavior, or it could be the action that follows the new behavior.  Adding a reward to your habit stack creates a habit loop. 

A habit loop is like:

  • Trigger: The current habit that can act as a reminder – can be neutral or negative
  • Behavior: The response is the new habit you’re building.  After (current habit or trigger), I will (new habit). Followed by…
  • Reward: The positive feeling or action immediately followed by the behavior. 

Examples. AM Sitting routine

  • Trigger: 6:00 am alarm
  • Behavior: immediately get out of bed and go to your quiet place to sit in meditation 
  • Reward: Make yourself a cup of coffee

To stack this habit, this could be followed by…

  • T: After I make my coffee, 
  • B: I will spend 5 minutes journaling
  • R: A sense of openness and clarity

Another helpful tool is a habit tracking app.  I prefer to use these in conjunction with my habit loops.  They act as additional motivation and reward.  Here are a few that I like: Streaks, SticK, and Habitshare.

There are a few different ways you could do this and you will find the right way that works for you.

  1. Use habit stacking and the habit loop.
  2. Use markers in your day as reminders like when you get up in the morning or before you leave your office or your lunch break.
  3. Download a habit tracking app.  Downloading a habit tracker onto your phone and setting up reminder prompts are a great way to build these new practices.
  4. Put it in your calendar for self-care time and don’t overlook it.

Start small. As James clear states in Atomic Habits,  “Getting one percent better every day counts for a lot in the long-run.”  For greater “sticking power” start with just one new habit you’d like to bring into your daily routine and start there.  When you feel like you have that down, add another.  When we take on too much change at once, we set ourselves up for failure when we can’t do it all and then we give up.  So just start with one.

This summer I started a daily exercise routine.  I just couldn’t make anything stick consistently until I tried the habit stacking approach and I have successfully worked out 5-6 days per week for the last 4 months.  I started with a goal of three days per week and was rocking that so it just felt better for my routine if I did it every weekday then the occasional Saturday.  This is what my habit loop looks like:

  • Trigger:  Finish my morning coffee – I NEED that first 😉
  • Behavior: Walk the dogs for a warm up immediately followed by my workout for the day
  • Reward: I FEEL so strong and accomplished AND I get to eat breakfast. Double reward!

Share your new habit stack in the comments below!

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