What are habits? Basically, they are an action that is in harmony with a strongly held belief. They are established actions in our daily life that we do with analysing. Habits are rewarding in some way – otherwise they wouldn’t become a habit.
For example - brushing our teeth - we’ve done it since childhood with the belief drummed into us that it’s important to look after our teeth and gums (emotion/belief). We do it without thinking about it as the toothbrush and toothpaste are at the sink ready (made easy), we feel good afterwards; clean mouth, confidence of fresh breath, knowledge of less chance of cavities and gum disease (rewards). A healthy habit is any behaviour that benefits your physical, mental, and emotional health. These habits improve your overall well-being and make you feel good.
Healthy habits often require a change in mindset which can be challenging, but with a 3-step plan, and by taking one small step at a time the changes can be made much easier. The 3-step plan to creating a new habit is:
Step 1 - find a good emotional reason or deeply held belief to do it (motivation)
Step 2 - make it convenient and as easy as possible to carry out (systems and plans)
Step 3 - build in a reward if there is not an immediate one (reward) For example, starting an exercise regime.
I have been ambivalent about starting an exercise regime for some time. I know it would be good for my health, I also knew I could make time for it BUT I just couldn’t find the motivation to start. Then my daughter said she was going to do a 12km run for ‘Mental Health’, as this has personally affected our family a spark lit up for me and I asked if I could do it with her – this became enough of an emotional reason and motivation to start (step 1). Step 2 – I needed to make it as easy as possible. This involved making a plan so I down-loaded an App to help (there is an app for everything these days). This told me how long to run/walk each session to build up to the 12km run. Then I set it in my calendar as if it was an appointment e.g. every Saturday, Monday and Wednesday at 8am.
I didn’t need to overthink it, just follow the plan. Step 3 – As a reward I had the completion of the run and the goal of fund-raising for mental health to work towards, which is rewarding in itself, but if I feel my motivation lagging, I will reward myself with a pamper, maybe like a massage when I have completed the first 4 weeks. It also helps to be accountable to someone – I am accountable to my daughter; I can’t let her down. By the time the scheduled run is due (3 months time), I have established a habit of running, which is then easier to maintain.
Our subconscious brain likes habits. Do you remember when you first started to drive, there was a lot of conscious effort at the start to establish this skill, but after lots of repetition, it becomes automatic or habitual. Have you ever been engrossed in a thought while driving and driven the wrong way (this is your subconscious mind resorting to habit). Unfortunately, this is also why we find it difficult to make changes in our lives with things like diet and exercise. These have become long standing habits. Being aware that the brain is attached to habits and will try to resort back to the way things have always been helps to bring awareness to, and a better understanding of any resistance to change. When making changes in our lives we will nearly always encounter resistance. This can often comes from our own negative mind chatter “you don’t need to go for that run today” or “you don’t need to change the way you eat”, “things are ok as they are”.
Setting up a three-point plan and using systems can go a long way to helping us set up new healthy habits and make positive changes in our lives.
Would you would like to become a happier, healthier version of yourself?