Habits influence our actions, attitudes, and decision-making abilities, so it is safe to say they affect every aspect of our lives. Consequently, many people are constantly trying to break bad habits and replace them with better ones. According to ValuePenguin, 61% of Americans are trying to stop unhealthy habits picked up during the coronavirus pandemic. You can build good habits by understanding how habits are formed and what you can do to entrench them. Below are some things you can do to build new habits that stick.
Experts agree that places, people, and activities are linked in your mind to your bad habits. Consequently, it is often challenging to break free from these habits if these triggers constantly surround you. For instance, suppose you want to quit stress eating and replace it with intuitive dining. In that case, you have to insist on hanging out with your friends at a great location like a cafe or park instead of agreeing to grab fast food with your colleagues after a bad day. Similarly, shopping malls might not be the best places to frequent if you are working towards becoming more money-conscious.
Also, don’t go outside when friends and co-workers take smoke breaks if you are trying to quit smoking. Rehab centers use this principle to help recovering addicts all the time. These centers offer a new environment where people can recover, ensuring that they don’t have to face environmental triggers that can cause them to relapse easily. Consequently, it is prudent to consider facilities like https://www.sunshinebehavioralhealth.com/colorado/aurora/ if you want professional assistance to break away from addiction and receive support for healthier habits.
It isn’t easy to build a new habit and even more challenging to maintain one. Therefore, putting significant pressure on yourself to maintain your new habit can do more harm than good. For instance, if you fail to maintain your habit as expected, you might be tempted to focus on the failure alone.
You might even feel like your bad habits are not gone, and your past achievements were just a sham. However, negative perceptions like this will only set you back, so practice self-compassion instead to keep yourself on track. Self-compassion will remind you that minor setbacks are normal for people developing new habits. This way, you can avoid being overly critical of yourself and instead focus on what actions you can take to do better in the future.
Leverage a supportive environment
There is no denying that people can be significantly influenced by what others around them are doing or feeling. It is essential to surround yourself with like-minded people seeking to build the same new habits as you. Research shows that the exertion of mental effort is contagious. Therefore, simply performing a task next to someone who exerts much effort will push you to do the same.
Also, being around these like-minded people is highly encouraging. For instance, you may want to form a habit of going for morning runs every day. Connecting with other runners can offer you extra motivation and energy to maintain your running habits. However, your support environment doesn’t always have to be people who have similar goals. You can tell your friends, family, and colleagues about your new habit and how you plan to maintain it. Sharing your habits and goals can offer you the much-needed accountability and maintenance support to persevere.
Make new habits easy
You can only maintain your habit if the behavior is easy to engage in. Consequently, eliminate all barriers and difficulties that can make your new behavior challenging so you can continue doing it. For instance, if you want to go to bed early, you can start your work immediately after waking up. This way, you can finish early and avoid working deep into the night, causing you to stay up too late. Likewise, something as trivial as not being able to locate your gym bag can be a big barrier that can prevent you from being more active.
Therefore, pack your gym bag and leave it by the door so you can simply pick it up when you need to go exercising. Similarly, you can sleep in your running clothes to make it simpler to roll out of bed in the morning, slip on your running shoes, and run. Suppose the thought of going somewhere else to exercise is a big impediment to remaining physically active. In that case, you can adopt a workout that doesn’t require you to leave your house to circumvent this barrier.
Tie the behavior to something you do already
Many experts agree that it is prudent to tie the behavior you are attempting to turn into a habit to something you do regularly. This practice is known as habit stacking, and it harnesses the connectedness of behavior to make desired habits part and parcel of you in no time. For instance, if you want to drink more water every day, take a glass of water each time you stretch or get up from your desk at work.
Similarly, if you want to meditate every morning, you can do this after you pour your cup of coffee to start your day. Likewise, if you want to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, say one thing you were grateful for during your day when you sit down to dinner. You can even form large stacks by linking smaller habits together after mastering the basics of habit stacking. This way, you can exploit the natural momentum you get from building one good habit to develop even more.
Research shows that intrinsic motivation and reward can help you form habits by strengthening behaviors each time you repeat them. At some point, even the mere perception of a reward can reinforce your habits. The primary purpose of rewards is to appease cravings. For instance, you might crave a snack immediately after exercising to reward yourself. Rewards also remind us of habits worth repeating since your brain is a pleasure detector.
Your brain constantly detects pleasure and disappointment in your daily life, and it uses this feedback to separate beneficial actions from useless ones. Therefore, rewarding yourself after engaging in a habit helps your brain recognize it as useful, making it more likely to stick.
Do it daily
A study by British researchers published in the European Journal of Social Psychology reveals that the amount of time it takes for a habit to form ranges from 18 to 254 days, with an average period of 66 days. Therefore, habits take a long time to form, but they develop faster when you do them often, preferably daily.
For instance, you can try brisk walking, and some yoga poses if you want to exercise daily instead of heading straight to the gym three days a week. After your simple, daily exercises become routine, you can gradually explore newer and more intense workouts to remain physically active, so keep this in mind.
It isn’t uncommon to forget about your habit altogether despite wanting to maintain a new behavior. This reality is especially true at the beginning of your habit formation. However, actions take time to become habits, so setting reminders is a great way to maintain your desired behaviors. These reminders can be visual, like a sticky note on your fridge or mirror. You can also leverage technology by using a habit tracking app or setting reminders on your phone.