Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Make Good Habits Easier to Stick To

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I already talked all about how to build and keep good habits.  But the truth is, the things that are best for us can be hard to stick to, even though you know your life would be better if you get these habits to work for you.  If you set some goals that just aren't sticking as well as you'd like in this new year, here's how you can make them a little easier:

Have a why behind every habit.  There are so many good habits that are recommended to be included in your routine.  Exercise, eating better, sleeping 8 hours, meditation, journaling, etc.  But just because someone else tells you it's a good idea doesn't mean that it will work for you or that it's that important to you.  When you commit to something, make sure you have your own solid why behind it.  You may need to keep asking 'why' until you get to the root.  'Why exercise?  Because you'll feel better.'  Which is true and all well and good, but for me, that's simply not enough motivation.  Why do I want to feel better?  Be able to do more, spend less time on the couch, look better in my clothes, etc etc.  Everyone has their own reasons, you need to know what yours is, at the root of the habit.

Pick one habit at a time.  It's really hard to overhaul everything at once and adopt every new habit at the same time.  These life overhauls that people want to implement at the beginning of a new year sound really great, but for most people, sustainable change comes from small habits over time.  So pick one small habit at a time.  It would be really hard to stick to a brand new morning routine that suddenly includes exercise, a healthy breakfast, showering, skincare, makeup and reading, when last week you rolled out of bed 10 minutes before heading out the door.  If instead you decided to get up 10 minutes earlier to make a quick breakfast, you'll be much more likely to stick with it.  Keep getting up earlier in 10 minute increments and adding one thing at a time until you master it.  Eventually you'll get to that full morning routine and not quit after a week.

Adjust your environment.  You want your environment to support your new habit, so do whatever you need to to make it easier.  If you want to cook more healthy foods, then rearrange the kitchen cabinets to make it simple to grab your supplies.  Throw out the unhealthy foods while you're in there.  If you want to create better morning exercise habits, leave your workout clothes and shoes out the night before.  If you want to journal or meditate more, make sure your space is set up for that already by leaving the journal and pens out or having a sound machine ready to turn on at meditation time.  Remove as many 'getting ready to do the thing' steps as possible so you can jump right into the habit instead of prepping for it each day.

Make the new habit more appealing to stick to.  Eating healthy is a great habit to stick to but if you find it boring to eat plain chicken and vegetables every day, find recipes that taste better and make you want to eat that food.  If you hate the treadmill, try a dance class or hiking or swimming.  Put Netflix on while you clean your house.  New habits shouldn't make you feel dread, even if they are 'harder.'  You can make just about anything more appealing if you tried.

Follow up something you need to do with something you want to do.  The trick is to get your brain to associate the habit that's good for you but not as fun with something that is fun that you actually want to do.  If you really struggle with going to the gym, follow up your gym session with a coffee with friends, or a half hour TV show.  Don't fall into the trap of making it too big a reward, like 4 hours of Netflix.  But a small reward can get you on the right track if you're struggling.

Try habit stacking.  We have a lot of strongly ingrained habits already.  Eating lunch or dinner, brushing your teeth, making coffee in the morning, even checking Instagram.  Use the momentum from one of those strongly ingrained habits to stack another habit on top of it.  Make it a point to do 10 push ups or sit ups every time you check Instagram.  Add flossing in every time you brush your teeth.  Maybe eating dinner will be your cue to meditate for 10 minutes afterward.  By stacking a habit you want to do with something that you automatically do, you can make it that much easier to be reminded.

Do a habit with a friend.  Some people (me!) are much more externally motivated and need to be pushed.  If I have a friend relying on me to show up for a walk with them after work, I'm much more likely to do it than if I was trying to walk alone, because I don't want to let them down.  You want to make sure this friend will push and motivate you though, rather than acquiesce when you say 'I feel like happy hour instead of gym time.'

Find a friend or group where the habit is already the norm.  This happens naturally, especially as you get older.  You gravitate towards friends that have similar lifestyles and habits as you.  All of my closest friends are childless and most aren't married, and if they are married, they also have a spouse with a crazy schedule.  That means that we have similar habits - Tara and I, for example, have similar spending habits, similar dog walking habits, similar ways we like to have fun, similar beliefs and hobbies (just listen to our weekly podcast on witchcraft!)  I find it much easier to stick to my budget and healthy eating plans when I'm with her, because she places a high value on those two things as well.  Those are already her norm.  If you are friends with a lot of people who value gym time and running 5ks, you are more likely to be a gym rat who runs races yourself.  If you want to become that type of person, then, logically it means you should seek out people who already have these habits as normal parts of their schedule.  It will encourage you to adopt this lifestyle as well.

Have you adopted any new, good habits for 2020?  How are you making them easier to stick to?

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