How to Create Good Habits
Updated: 09/20/2022 – Are you looking to make a change by getting rid of a bad habit? Or maybe you are trying to incorporate a new one into your life to make it better. Let’s talk about how to create good habits.
Creating a new habit or trying to shed a bad one involves change. And for many of us, change does not come easily. We may want to make a change and have the best intentions to do something differently, but when the time comes, we fight it or just succumb to it because it’s just too hard.
Creatures of Habit
The adage that we are creatures of habit is definitely true. We like to stay in our comfort zone, surrounded by familiarity. We get lulled into complacency.
There are many times when we operate on auto mode meaning that we don’t even realize that we are doing something. There is no conscious thought required when we do certain things such as nail-biting, chowing down on a cookie while making dinner, or leaving clothes lying on the bedroom floor (creating clutter).
Are you one of those people who, when sitting down with your morning cup of coffee, you automatically reach for the phone to search social media? And then spend an hour or so just scrolling? Or, you drive to work every day, and sometimes, (go ahead, admit it) you don’t know how you got to your destination because you weren’t paying attention?
You put your mind on autopilot and it knows what to do.
This makes breaking a habit difficult.
Rewire Your Brain
When you try to make a change, you essentially try to rewire your brain.
Imagine cutting a swath through a dense forest. It is difficult going at first, but after you walk on the same path repeatedly, it becomes easier.
This is the same premise when you create a new habit. You’re forging new paths in the brain; the more you repeat the habit, the easier it becomes. But, you have to make a conscious effort to make it a well-worn path.
And this is accomplished by practicing.
21-90 Day Rule
How long does it take to create good habits? Some say 21 days. Some advise that it averages 66 days. Others write that it takes, depending on the habit, more than 200! No wonder we get discouraged!
There is a 21-90 day rule that states that it takes 21 days to make a change (build a new habit) but 90 days to make it permanent.
What, Why, and How
Let’s spend some time identifying the ”what, why, and how” involved in making a change to form a new habit or break an old one.
Answer these questions:
- What is it that you want to change? Do you want to break the habit of smoking? Or stop late-night snacking? Or maybe get over the fear of public speaking?
- Why do you want to make the change? To feel better and get healthy? Get fit to run your first 5K? Or speak in front of a crowd because you want to run for public office?
- How can you make the change? Write your new habit into your daily schedule. Surround yourself with a new environment. Or count the number of steps you take each day.
Put an effort into understanding your answers to these questions. Doing so will set you up to be triumphant in your quest to create good habits.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Now that you have a plan, here are some steps to take to have success as you create your new habit.
You have to want to create a new habit or break an old habit for YOURSELF.
Whatever your reason for wanting to break a habit or take on a new one, make sure it is something that you want, not something that someone else wants for you.
Going through the change process for someone else is not a big enough reason. You may not buy in completely or put forth your best effort if you’re not doing it for yourself.
Tell Others That You Are Committed to Change
Having your own personal cheering section rooting for you will help you to stay committed to your new habit. Particularly when you’ve had enough and want to give up.
Here’s an example:
Your mother sends cookies home with the kids while you are trying to lose weight. Tell her that you’re making the effort to get healthy by cutting sugar out of your diet. Ask her to keep the sweets at her house. She will understand that having them in your house is pure temptation.
It is so much easier to break the habit of eating sweets if you don’t have them in your house.
Find Someone to Hold You Accountable
Now that others know that you’re on a mission (to lose weight, for example), enlist someone – your spouse, best friend, co-worker, etc. – to help to hold you accountable.
This accountability can look any way you choose.
He/she can do things with you such as:
- accompany you on a shopping trip,
- review your food journal,
- remind you to drink water,
- enjoy a night out with you at a vegan restaurant,
- send you smiley face texts,
- kick your butt when you feel like giving up, or
- just listen when you’re having a bad day and offer words of encouragement.
Having an accountability buddy to support your efforts will increase your odds of success while you create good habits.
Schedule Your New Habit
Write your new habit into your daily schedule.
Here’s an example:
If you decide that you are going to run as part of your training for a 5K race, decide which days you will get out and do it. You want to run four times a week and weight train two days, Get your calendar and mark each day with your new routine.
Also, write in your day of rest. This gives you something to look forward to.
Schedule your training at the same time each day. By doing this, your brain will understand that you will be running or lifting immediately after you wake up or during your lunch break.
Routine is your friend (remember forging the path)!
It is understandable that you may miss a day. But don’t let that deter you. It is much easier to get back into your routine the next day rather than wait until one week passes.
Don’t give up – consistency is key to creating good habits!
Use Other Reminders
If your new habit is flossing your teeth, try tying a piece of floss around your toothbrush. That will remind you to floss after brushing.
Place your running shoes outside of your closet door so that they’re easy to grab. This will remind you of your commitment to getting healthy, seeing them may make you feel guilty so you have to use them!
Have fresh fruit out on the kitchen counter to encourage healthy snacking.
Put a picture of a slimmer you on the beach on the refrigerator door. That visual will remind you that the slice of swiss cheese you’re craving may not be the best choice if you’re looking to reduce your calorie intake.
No matter if you are trying to create new habits or break old ones, I’m sure that you’ll be able to come up with a number of ways to be reminded and encouraged.
Breaking Down Intimidating Goals
For those new habits that seem too large and intimidating to attempt, try breaking them down into more manageable stages.
Let’s take running. You’ve long admired those who are out there running every day. You’ve tried it in the past but couldn’t keep up so you gave up.
So, instead of running two miles the first day (and nearly killing yourself), start out by running down the street and back. The next day, run a little further. Continue doing this until you’ve reached your goal. And, of course, you can always increase that two miles to three!
Chunking will work for almost any newly created habit you wish to incorporate into your life.
Environment Matters – Set Yourself Up for SUCCESS!
If you want to change your eating habits to include only healthy snacking, make your kitchen a cookie and chip-free zone. Drive by the fast-food restaurants and steer into the all-natural vegan restaurant instead. There is no reason to go down the snack aisle or open the ice cream doors in the freezer area of the grocery store.
Surround yourself with people who are like-minded when it comes to exercising. Join a local running or walking club or use your gym membership on a regular basis.
If you no longer wish to drink alcohol, stay out of the local pub.
Do you want to get eight hours of sleep every night? Put your phone out of reach and move the TV out of the bedroom.
Using a reward system is proven to work when attempting to incorporate good habits into your life.
Making changes is difficult. But if you dangle a large enough reward for changing your habit, it just might make it easier to accomplish your new habit.
Pull a smaller-sized pair of jeans out of your drawer to incentivize weight loss (and put them in a place that you can see them), eat a tiny piece of chocolate for finishing your run, or schedule a Saturday night movie date for keeping the floor clutter-free. All of these ideas can be motivators.
Be creative. Find something that will help you to your end goal.
The great thing about using rewards is that you get to decide what is going to keep you motivated to create good habits.
Did you know that there’s such a thing as choosing the “right” reward?
And that’s it!
If you are trying to create good habits or break an old one, these steps will help, no matter what you are changing in your life.
As long as you understand that you are training your brain, and repetition is vital, you should do just fine. Of course, motivation also helps!
Make sure that you check out this post on developing daily habits in order to have a great day!
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