So you have your Mindfulness covered, now you want to look at creating good habits.
I was recently watching a video by my good friend Amanda Graham of Praana Wellness (check her out on FB and instagram) about creating good habits and I thought to myself what an excellent topic for my blog page!
Everyone has their own goals – to get fit, lose weight, spend more time with the kids, get the house organised, read more etc. But saying you want to achieve something, and finding the motivation and discipline to achieve it are very different things.
Today I want to share with you 7 research secrets from Live Bold & Bloom, which I have adopted into my own life. They aren’t rocket science, but if you practise them you will find that you get more done in a shorter amount of time. You will feel more energised, and you will see your life becoming more fruitful – not just for you but also your family.
So here are the 7 life-changing ways to form Good Habits:
1) Start Small…
…and I mean ‘ridiculously’ small. Most people start with a big change, which often leads to frustration, setbacks and ultimately to giving up. For example, going from zero to four gym sessions every week, or an overnight switch to a healthy diet.
The trouble with such dramatic change is that it requires a huge amount of willpower. Research has shown that willpower works incredibly like muscle i.e. if used a lot, it will tire quickly. And when this happens, a person is likely to quit.
So what is the answer? Simply start so small that what you want to change hardly requires any willpower at all…
- Instead of a 30 minute run, start with 5 minutes each day
- Rather than switching to a new diet, add vegetables to every lunch
- Instead of meditating for 30 minutes, start with 5 minutes every day
So always focus on creating the actual habit behaviour first. Don’t increase the effort until it has become part of your ‘DNA,’ i.e. a natural part of what you do everyday.
2) Let your habit(s) become your ‘drug of choice’.
Have you ever experienced how hard it is to let go of something when you have invested a huge amount of effort into it? For example, working towards a promotion at work, or working long hours just so you can send your kids to a private school? We can actually use this tendency to our own advantage. Comedian Jerry Seinfield developed a strategy to do exactly this and coined the phrase, “Don’t break the chain.”
So how did Seinfeld use this strategy to become one of the best comics?
It was simple and to the point, a no brainer. He simply wrote a new joke each and every day. Once completed he would put a big X on his calendar. As a result, within a few days, he had created a chain that he didn’t want to break.
You too can use this clever, yet simple, strategy to create that visual reminder of how much you have invested in our new habit. Whatever it may be! Once the chain gets going and the longer it becomes, the harder it will take to break and the harder you will fight for it.
So get yourself a calendar, put a red marker next to it, and invest in the process of creating your new habit. Your ONLY job is NOT to break the chain!
3) Set Clear Intentions.
So you’ve thought about you new habit and you’re serious about it, now it’s time to set the intention. For example, you’ve decided to hit the gym 4 times per week, so do you think saying ‘I’ll try to visit the gym 4 times this week” – do you think these words will cut it?
Once again, research has shown that we are more likely to follow through if our words follow through what we have decided beforehand exactly when and where the behaviour is going to happen. So what powerful strategies can you use to do this:
- Implementation Intention – create your habit from an “If/Then” statement. Think it first, then say it out loud e.g. “If I’ve finished getting the kids ready and off to school, then I will do my Pelvic Floor exercises.”
- Habit Stacking – connect your new life-forming habit to an existing behaviour that exists by completing the sentence yourself e.g. “After/before [established habit], I will [new habit]. So for example “After I have put the baby down for his/her nap, I will meditate for 5 minutes.”
- Implement Scheduling – Now this may seem very obvious to you, but very few people actually carry this through. Instead committing something to memory, which so often fails us! I love ‘to do’ lists. Others hate this approach, but whatever you decide to do get it down in black & white, so that your diary reflects the fact that this new habit is truly important to you. Provide space in your schedule to allow it to permeate, to grow just as you would any important meeting you may have such as parent/teacher, doctor or dentist.
4) Celebrate Your Small Wins
I use to be extremely bad at this, thinking most times I had failed or hadn’t gained much ground. Simply put, I would beat myself up preferring the stick to the carrot! But now my mindset on this one has changed drastically. Instead I either pat myself on the back for the small step gained, or congratulate myself on a job well done. Research has shown that putting up a high 5 and celebrating what you have done is crucial for motivation.
When you reward yourself for making these significant steps, no matter how small or big, the reward circuitry within your brain is activated. When this happens key chemicals are released, which in turn make you experience good feelings such as achievement and pride. These emotions have a knock-on-effect empowering you to take action and, therefore, create bigger and better successes for the future. That sounds good to me!
So for every step you take in the right direction, even the tiniest one, always recognise and appreciate how you got there.
5) Create Your Environment
The environment we create often drives our behaviour. For example, you are feeding your little ones at their scheduled tea time and upon cleaning up, you noticed an unfinished plate… how many of you Mums out there have eaten those leftovers? If you have, you will know what I mean here.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Professor of Psychology and bestselling author has created an excellent framework to which we can shape our own environment to support our desired habits.
Professor Csikszentmihalyi recommends that each person should deliberately change what he refers to as the “activation energy” of our habits. The idea being that each one of our habits also requires a certain amount of energy to get it done. So the more activation energy required, the less likely we are to get it done.
Simply put, make your intentions easier to achieve. Maybe you intend to exercise whilst your little ones are napping, but you usually end up watching TV instead. If so, try this on for size:
- Decrease the activation energy of your desired habit (exercising) e.g. put your mat or exercise ball next to your sofa.
- Increase the activation energy of your undesired habit (watching TV) e.g. put the TV remote in another room.
What will this achieve? By changing the activation energy of these behaviours, will allow you to nudge yourself in the right direction.
6) Surround Yourself with Supporters
This is no great surprise because those we surround ourselves with have the greatest impact on our behaviour. For example, did you know that if you have a friend that is obese your risk of obesity increases by 57%. Further studies have shown that we tend to spend the most time with those who tend to feel the same way and adopt the same goals. So to increase our chances of success, we need to make sure we have the right people in our corner.
The answer is simple if you want to create healthier habits, but all your friends are unhealthy, it’s time to move in a different circle and find new friends. The same goes for mindset, particularly if you want to make big things happen in your life. Find a support group who not only inspire you but will be there to pick you back up when you fall. I have done exactly that since returning back to the UK four years ago. I wanted to start a business to empower and work with Mums, no matter what stage they were at so I went out and found my “tribe,” my group of like-minded people that understand my desires and the life I want to create for me, my family and my amazing clients.
We need to be selective because we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
7) Pre-Commit To Your Habit
Imagine your little one has finally nodded off for his/her afternoon nap – bliss! Within moments your plan of exercising whilst you have this quiet time has been thrown into disarray because your brain starts to rationalise.
Let’s see how this looks; ”Hmm, I know I should be working out but I’m just so tired. Should I even be exercising if I am this tired, is it good for me? I could work out later when my hubby is home or I could start tomorrow? Yup, I’ll rest now and watch a bit of TV instead.”
But then you recall you have friends visiting tomorrow or that you have committed to your exercise plan with a fellow Mum or that you have declared to one and all, your family, FB friends, Instagram, etc to stick to your plan for 30 days.
Suddenly, resting and watching TV doesn’t seem such an appealing choice. So by pre-committing in this way, you have now added an extra layer of accountability that will make you resolve to push through when things get hard.
So to recap…
- Take small steps
- Let your habits become your ‘drug of choice’
- Set clear intentions
- Celebrate your wins
- Design your environment
- Surround yourself with the right people.
Couple this with a positive mindset (read my previous blog on Mindfulness) and you are heading in the right direction.
Happy Habits, Happy Body, Happy Mind!