Spring is nearly here and with it the renewed energy and motivation to feel good and be at our best form. But, as life shows us time and time again, committing to a new routine and forming a habit is not all about motivation and willpower. Behavioural scientists who study habit formation say that many of us try to create healthy habits the wrong way. We make bold resolutions without taking the steps needed to set ourselves up for success. (*)
So, before you embark on your spring resolutions, here are some tips to help you along the way.
Stack your habits
The best way to form a new habit is to tie it to an existing habit, experts say. Look for patterns in your day and think about how you can use existing habits to create new, positive ones. For many of us, our morning routine is our strongest routine, so that’s a great place to stack on a new habit. A journey to/from work is another good example and even the minute or two standing in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil can be used positively to stretch, breathe or work on your posture.
Big behaviour changes require a high level of motivation that often can’t be sustained. Starting with tiny habits to make a new habit as easy as possible in the beginning would often help! Taking a daily short walk, for example, could be the beginning of an exercise routine. Or, putting an apple in your bag every day could lead to better eating habits.
Do it often
Habits take a long time to create, but they form faster when we do them more often. Start with something reasonable that is really easy to do and make sure to do it often! Taking a 10 minute class 3 times a week would benefit you way more than regularly postponing your weekly 60 minute class… and it will help you form a new positive habit that you can build on.
Make it easy
Habit researchers know we are more likely to form new habits when we clear away the obstacles that stand in our way. We’re all influenced by how things are organised around us in ways that we don’t necessarily understand or exploit. Exercising at home removes many obstacles and helps form an easy exercise habit. Having your exercise gear out and ready and knowing what classes you want to do in the coming week will remove a few more obstacles and enable you to achieve your goals successfully!
Rewards are an important part of habit formation. When we brush our teeth, the reward is immediate — a minty fresh mouth. But some rewards, like the physical changes from exercise, take longer to show up. That’s why it helps to build in some immediate rewards to help you form a new habit. Plan an exercise date with a friend, or book a massage once a month… :)
Have a great March!
* This post was modified from a recent post By Tara Parker-Pope in the NY Times