A question that we often ask ourselves is 'How do I break bad habits?' Since I'm more of a cup half full kind of girl, I think a more positive, self-affirming question that we should be asking is 'How can I create good and healthy habits?'
Creating good habits leaves little room for bad habits. Healthy habits can also replace the bad and improve your productivity, organisation, health, mood and more! I've got 10 tips for you to start creating a new healthy habit today that will make it stick!
I've got a free printable cheat sheet for you too, so make sure you read to the end to get yours!
Here are your 10 tips:
- Know your Triggers
Charles Duhigg says in his book the Power of Habit, that we are triggered to action to get a certain rewards that we are looking for and that's why we carry out our routine habits. In the evening you always sit on the couch and end up watching too much Netflix and staying up too late re-watching The Crown. Or because it's on your way home from yoga, you swing into the Tim's drive thru for breakfast. Or what about the good habits, maybe you write out your to-do list for the next day every night after you do the supper dishes because your planner is in the kitchen. The trigger sets the action in motion so that you can get your reward. Time and location are two categories for triggers or cues, says Duhigg, so when it's evening time, that triggers your habit to watch Netflix so you can get your reward of entertainment and relaxation. It's the location of that Tim Hortons that triggers your habit to buy a yummy rewarding breakfast and it's the time and location of finding your planner in the kitchen after supper that prompts you to write your to-do list so you'll be rewarded with it waiting for you the next morning.
If we know what triggers us, whether to do something good or not so good, we can take action to change. In creating a new habit, we can keep the old cue and reward and simply swap out the routine or habit. Knowing that the Tim's drive thru being on your way home triggers you to stop after yoga is half the battle. You can decide to take a different route home or pack something to eat and bring it to yoga.
- Attach new habits to already well established habits.
If there is something that you do everyday, it's a lot easier to add a new activity to that one, then to start from scratch. Let's say you want to decrease the clutter by your front door and most of it is junk mail and flyers. If you pick up your mail on the way up your driveway after walking the dog, then that habit is already established. So adding the extra steps to take the junk mail directly to the recycling bin is a lot easier to start doing than choosing another random time of day to pick up the junk mail off of the table by the door and bring it to the bin.
planner and goodies from Paper House Productions
- No Excuses!
The first weeks of a new habit are critical. You have to be diligent and not offer up any excuses in the beginning. My husband was trying to create a morning running habit. I, on the other hand, have been doing pilates every weekday morning for years. We had a midweek holiday a few weeks back and I decided to skip my workout, but I encouraged my husband to go for his run to help solidify the habit. Because my habit is well established, it was easy for me to get up the next morning and do 4 blogilates videos, but if he had skipped his run, it would have been a whole lot harder for him to get up and out the next day because his habit was so new.
So stick with it! No skipping allowed for the first 3 weeks and then it will get easier as it becomes second nature.
I hear you, loud and clear, you're saying 'But, it's so hard NOT to skip!' I know, I know, I've been there. New habits are HARD! But, if you can stick with it for 21 days, then it'll be mostly smooth sailing... mostly... after that. These next set of tips will help you stick to that new habit.
- The 5 Second Rule.
I recently finished this book, The 5 Second Rule, by Mel Robbins and it's a game changer! It's one of those must reads... or must-listen, the audio version is pretty great. I'll give you a quick summary here while you wait for it to download on Audible.
Your brain only needs 5 seconds to talk you out of something. If you don't get out of bed right away to go for your run (fit in 30mins of crafting before work, be up before your children, have time for breakfast, or whatever you've planned to do) your brain will start telling you how warm and cosy your bed is. It'll come up with excuses, anything to make you roll over, hit snooze and skip your run. After 5 seconds your brain will tell you that one little cookie is ok, it won't hurt your diet, that you'll behave tomorrow.
Mel Robbins describes launching yourself out of bed like a rocker ship, 5-4-3-2-1! That's all it takes to quiet the excuses and move into action - to get out of bed and pulll on your Lululemons or to have a banana instead of that cookie. You can use 5-4-3-2-1 to turn off Netflix and read a book instead (the 5 Second Rule, maybe), to declutter your kitchen or to make that phone call (Introverts, are you with me? I hate the phone!). Only make sure you count backwards because if you count up to 5, then you will just keep going 6-7-8 and the excuses will make their way in.
- Don't Break the Chain.
Jerry Seinfeld came up with this one. The idea is simple, for everyday you complete the habit you are trying to instill, then you get a big checkmark (or you colour in a square, flower or heart on your tracker or get to add a sticker). The idea is to do it every day or weekday, week, etc. depending on the habit so that you make a chain of checks (coloured squares or stickers) in your planner. If you miss a day (or week or whatever) you break the chain and mess up the pretty pattern. Which of course doesn't look nice, and since you don't want that to happen you'll be motivated to keep going and not break the chain.
planner and goodies from Paper House Productions
- Give Yourself a Reward.
Nothing too extravagant but something that will make you happy. The little stickers from Tip number 5 is a fun and perfect as a daily reward. Maybe, you love to have a cup of peppermint and liquorice tea after supper and you've been wanting to get those supper dishes out of the way in the evening so they aren't waiting for you the next morning. Well, save that tea until after the dishes are done! It would be a great little treat to motivate you to do them. Some other rewards would be a 10 minute break to work on a favourite craft project, reading a chapter of your current book, or for a bigger reward, re-watching one episode of Game of Thrones or Outlander as you wait oh so impatiently for the next season. Only one episode though, no binge watching!
- Track Your Progress of Established Habits alongside the new.
Like in the break the chain example, if you track what you are doing, you will be motivated to colour in more squares as you SEE the tracker start to fill up. Track multiple habits in one tracker for a colourful addition to your planner. Here's a big tip: track a habit of yours that is already well established. That way you'll be consistently seeing progress and you'll be motivated for the new habits by the success of older habits. As I said before, my workout habit is pretty much set in stone, but I colour in a little square every weekday anyway. It makes my tracker prettier and I have something to track everyday even if I've been struggling to make progress on the other, weaker habits.
- Same Time Same Place, Same Circumstances
While creating your habit, make sure that you do it at the same time, in the same place and under the same circumstances as often as possible. This is critical as you are instilling a new habit for the triggers and muscle memory. You'll know that when you come back from walking the dog that you pass the mail box, take the mail and you will train yourself to head to the recycle bin. You'll know that when your dishes are done in the evening you can grab your planner and sip your liquorice and peppermint tea while you write out tomorrow's to-do list. Once your habit is solidly engrained in your mind, you can change it up every once in a while and it won't matter too much. You'll be able to come back to the habit easily, but in the early days, it's essential to you create consistant conditions to really make that habit stick.
- Have Someone Keep you Accountable.
Tell someone (or lots of someones) that you are embarking on the creation of this new habit! The more apt that person is to ask you about your progress, and to call you out when it looks like your about it skip a day, the better! Post it on Facebook or Instagram, where all your family and friends can hound you motivate you and keep you focused.
- Don't Give Up!
Stick with the habit, until it becomes automatic., even after those 21 days, when a habit is said to be made. I'll play devil's advocate here because I've had many new, and still weak, habits that have collasped back to nothing because I let up after 21 days. I thought I had it down, but in reality it wasn't entrenched in my brain deeply enough. Don't give up, don't slacken the reins until you are doing this new habit without thinking, until it's practically second nature. If you do skip a day... and there will be days when you will skip, whether it's because you need to for a valid reason or because you simply 'failed' to do it... If you do skip a day, whatever you do, DO NOT beat yourself up for missing a day or for 'failing'. It's not failing, building habits is hard work! If it wasn't hard, everyone would be doing it and leading perfect lives. It's absolutely normal and completely ok to mess up during the process. The key is to not to let the mess-ups get you down. Try and figure out why you messed and learn from that. Did you skip your run because it was raining? Maybe do a yoga video in your living room on rainy days. Or maybe you've written 500 words a day, everyday for almost 2 weeks, but that one day that you skipped got you off track. If you understand that you missed that day because of a stressful meeting at work, then you'll know that stress affects your writing and next time you'll have a back up plan, write something else, a letter or email instead of working on your novel, it all counts! Or if you're blocked completely, get inspired by a walk or some music. Do something, anything, related to writing in the time that you've alloted yourself to write.
Phew, that was a lot to take in! I know that it can be overwhelming so I have some things to help you out.
You probably won't want to come back to this post every time you're stuck with a habit, so I've created a printable for you to stick into your planner. It's a Cheat Sheet with the 10 tips listed. It'll be easier to flip to that page and check rather than come back here every time. You should also bookmark this blog post so that when you do need more of a refresher than the list on the printable you can find it easily. Click on the image below to get your free printable Cheat Sheet:
I've also created a YouTube video, if you are more of a visual learner. It's a summary of the tips that I shared here, so you can go there if you are stuck as well. I want you to nail those habits so I've created these great resources to help you succeed!