We often focus on what we are doing wrong versus what we are doing well- and that can feel discouraging. If you have had trouble changing some of the habits you consider non supportive, focus on creating a brand new habit instead of changing an old one. The attention to the opportunity might give you some positive energy and hope about what you would like to create.
Learning habits that reduce stress is a “keystone” to changing other habits because lower stress levels make it easier for us to be proactive rather than reactive. Keystone habits are those that send ripple effects into our lives and tend to make us improve on other behaviors. Some keystone habits reported by successful weight managers include eating breakfast daily, exercising, food journaling, and mindfulness skills. In order to effectively create a new habit, follow these three steps below.
Step 1: Choose a habit that is very easy to start: If you want to start a new habit and begin living healthier and happier, one suggestion that I cannot emphasize enough is to start small. I call it low hanging fruit. What is something that when you think of it, you say “oh I can do that!” If you have a positive energetic or emotional response to the new habit you are choosing, you chose the right one. Think baby steps. Let’s use the example of taking your vitamins.
Step 2: Create a reminder for the habit: A good reminder makes it easy to start connecting your new behavior to something that you already do. This is why the reminder is such a critical part of forming new habits. A good reminder does not rely on motivation and it doesn’t require you to remember to do your new habit. Picking the correct reminder for your new habit is the first step to making change easier. Write down a list of things you do everyday such as take a shower, eat lunch, pack your brief case, get your travel mug ready, etc. Visualize your routine from the time you rise until you go to bed and list all of the action items you do every day and then choose one to link to your goal.
Set up a visible reminder for your new habit to link it with a current behavior and it will be complete. No need to be motivated. No need to remember. In the example of taking vitamins, you could buy a pill box and put all of your vitamins in the box. Then linking the pill taking with an activity you already do such as brush your teeth, I would suggest putting the pill box on the counter in the bathroom next to your toothbrush or toothpaste.
Step 3: Create a reward or attach a positive affirmation: Acknowledge yourself every time you complete this new habit. Tell yourself, “Good job!”, “I did well today! or “ Great work, Lisa!” (of course add in your name, not mine). After you take the pills, either before or after you brush your teeth, look at yourself in the mirror and say “Great job!”
We want to continue doing things that make us feel good. And because an action needs to be repeated for it to become a habit, it’s especially important that you reward yourself each time you practice your new habit. Here are some other tips to help support your new habit cultivation:
- Post reminders of your goals
- Read books or listen to audios to keep you motivated
- Make your environment easy to slip into effective behaviors and difficult to slip into ineffective behaviors
- Create more rewarding associations to effective behaviors.
You might have to experiment before you find the right reminder that helps you to start a new habit. Celebrating and rewarding yourself with positive self–talk can take some getting used to if you’re not someone who typically does that. Remember that it is all a process so try to have some fun with it!