How to create healthy habits... that actually stick
Urgh! Why is it so difficult to stick with healthy habits?
We’ve all been there before. We start to become healthy. We do a few work-outs, buy and cook a few healthy meals, or get a few days of really good sleep.
But then the inevitable happens. We drop the ball for a few days and the momentum is lost. We go back to old ways and the cycle of regret starts anew.
So let’s talk about habits and the effect they have on your life
Habits are the small decisions you make and actions you carry out daily: your exercise, your morning cafe’ latte, your walk to the shop etc. According to research carried out at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviour on any normal day!
Habits are subconscious. They are what you do every day and you don’t ever really question why you do them.
Imagine if you could turn something you want to change about yourself into a habit. You could do it without thinking, without having to convince yourself every day to stick at it. Sounds great, right?
To make a habit of something, you need to do it every day for at least two months. After two months, actions become habits and form part of your routine.
Want to be fitter? Create a daily exercising habit.
Want to eat healthier? Create a daily healthy eating habit.
Want that promotion? Create better daily working habits
What you do repeatedly and spend your time doing or thinking about every day (habits) are what will ultimately mold you into the person you want to become: The way you think, your personality and your beliefs. Everything in your life from exercise, productivity and nutrition all boils down to habits! So… change your habits and you can change your life!
Great! Where do we start? Who can teach us the secret of forming these habits? There is only one name that stands out in the world of habit-making: James Clear
Who is James Clear and what are Atomic Habits?
James Clear is one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation and is a successful writer and speaker focused on habits, decision-making and continuous improvement in life. He is the author of the No.1 New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits. This book has sold over five million copies across the globe to date. Initially an author for the New York Times, James Clear has made his career out of helping people carve out a more successful and happier lifestyle daily.
No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving yourself, every single day. James Clear writes to reveal practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones and master the tiny behaviours which lead to remarkable results!
Key Framework for Creating Atomic Habits Explained
When it comes to creating habits that actually stick, these are the 3 R’s referred to in James Clear’s Atomic Habits:
- Reminder/Cue: The trigger that initiates the behaviour.
- Routine: The behaviour itself, the action you take.
- Reward: The benefit you gain from the action.
These influence nearly everything we do each day. So you can use these to design good habits or eliminate bad ones. This is done by applying the 4 Laws of Habit Formation. To illustrate exactly how these work let’s create the scenario where you want to create a healthy eating habit.
4 Laws of Habit Formation
Make it Obvious
When you have chosen the habit you want to start then simply state exactly what it is that you want to do. This may sound obvious but voicing awareness of the habit is a huge step to success. Keep it specific. If you want to have a healthier eating habit then make one obvious step.: “I am going to eat 3 pieces of fruit by lunch every day”.
Now use ‘habit stacking’. This nifty tool says that when you do one habit then immediately do the new habit. If you tend to take regular bathroom breaks in the morning then - In our example - you could say: “After going to the bathroom, I will eat one piece of fruit”. Now you have an obvious and simple way to initiate your new habit
Make it Attractive
Your body is addicted to dopamine. Every action is taken because of the anticipation that precedes it. It is the craving that leads to the response. The pleasurable hit you get from dopamine can be found in all sorts of places, some that you don’t really want. However, habits are more easily formed when you enjoy it. So add in another step after habit tracking that rewards you with something that you find pleasurable.
I love a cup of warming, satisfying tea. Now I can add this into the habit to treat myself: “After going to the bathroom, I will eat one piece of fruit. After eating a piece of fruit, I will make a cup of tea”. Doing this will trick your brain into loving this new habit.
Make it Easy
This is often called the law of least effort. If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. So redesign your environment to make your habit easy to do. That way you don’t have to keep finding the motivation and desire to do it.
In our example you could put a bowl of your favourite fruit out where it is easily reached, maybe by the kettle so you can make that cup of tea quicker. The inverse of this also works. If you want to start eating healthy but often reach for the biscuits then make those hard to get to. Put them on the top shelf at the back of the cupboard. Trick yourself into better habits.
Make it Satisfying
We naturally evolved to prefer instant gratification over delayed reward. Though habits tend to compound and produce the results we want at a later date. Just think about it, eating that chocolate is very satisfying now but knowing that you will be healthier with a good eating habit takes time and effort. That is why you need to track and celebrate the habits. When you reach milestones you are bringing forward that delayed gratification a few steps at a time.
Try adding a calendar to your fridge and ticking off each day that you maintain your habit. Set out a few milestones and really treat yourself (preferably not with those biscuits).
You’ve got the tools, now make the change
You cannot go through life performing the same actions, having the same thoughts and trying to reach the same goals.
If you constantly evolve, change and implement the 4 Laws of Habit Formation into your life you can begin to feel your best self: be fitter than ever before and more successful, calmer and happier than you thought possible.
Notice where your life is lacking, where change needs to begin and form a reminder, a routine and a reward checklist. This is when you will begin to see the benefits and turn your life around.
Because habits shape you as a person and transform your life daily. Let Be Bright do the same - transform your life and be a part of your daily routine. The rewards will speak for themselves.