Making a habit of it

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Habit: an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary; a dominant or regular disposition or tendency

I am really interested by what it takes for someone to turn something into a habit. I am someone who is always looking to change and improve the way I live my life and some habits seem to stick and others seem to be there for a while, but then just as quickly disappear!

One thing I have noticed about myself, is that if it is really important to me, then I will make sure I do the practice regularly and before I know it, it is just a way of life for me. So those that you deem necessary or uplifting or beneficial are likely to be easier to become habits.

So ask yourself:

1. Is this important to me? Will it enhance my life? Is it enjoyable? Does it bring me happiness?

2. If the answer to the first questions is “No”, then will it help me spend more time doing what I like?

Either way, you hopefully will have the commitment to make this new practice into a habit you keep.
But commitment isn’t always enough.  The following are ways to help you ensure that practice leads to permanence.

1. Be conscious

Be really conscious about how you spend your time.
Notice when you spend time doing something you want to stop doing. Or on the flipside, know that you could be doing the new habit now and take action to put it in place. I have found that really being aware of what I am currently doing has helped me get new habits up and running.

2. Set up reminders

Beginning a new habit isn’t easy. It’s not always going to be front of mind – because if it is, it would probably be a habit already! So I like to have reminders around. This might be a note on the fridge, a post-it above my desk, an appointment in my calendar, an item in my daily to do list, or an email I send myself. Each one of these reminders brings the habit to front of mind, and helps me be more conscious about whether I am doing it or not.

3. Take small steps

It is best to start small when making any change. Once you have made one small change then you can add to it. You’re much more likely to form a habit this way, rather than having something too big that you just can’t get your head around.

So if your aim is to exercise for 30 minutes three times a week. How about starting with 5 minutes three times a week? Then move to 10 minutes, and so on.

4. Tell someone else

It really helps to be accountable to someone else. Tell friends or family what habit you want to set up and then get them to check in to see how you are going with forming this new habit (or removing an old one).

But be truthful with them! Tell them when you were successful, and also be honest when you’ve tripped up.

5. Celebrate your successes

Before you start off, set up some milestones you want to reach. Completing the new habit daily for a week? Doing it for two weeks. A month. Two months. Mark each milestone with a reward – something that really excites you and will help you continue with forming the habit.

6. Be patient with yourself

Forming new habits will take time. Your brain takes more energy to think about new ideas than to think about things you have always done, so it is likely to feel like hard work at times too. There will be weeks when it just flows and you can do the habit without thinking and then other weeks it will all seem so hard. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Continue to celebrate your successes, pick yourself up and try again if you miss a day, and be kind to yourself. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it!

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