When was the last time you thought to yourself: “I’d like to start a new habit”?
Perhaps it was on New Years Eve, or maybe it was just yesterday.
If you successfully implemented something new and it has become a habit, great work! Creating new positive habits is no easy feat.
If you procrastinated, fell off the wagon, or didn't start at all, have you thought about why?
Perhaps you thought you’d miss out on something fun, told yourself you don’t have the willpower or that there is no way you can keep this up long term, so why bother trying now.
If you were left feeling puzzled or defeated, you’re not alone.
As humans we naturally fall into patterns that make our everyday lives easier, more efficient, or more enjoyable. By doing the same things over and over each day, our body’s memorize behaviours, thoughts and emotions– which become our habits.Our habits play an important role in making us feel safe and comfortable becayse we know what to expect.
Given that they dictate 45-85% of what we do, think, and feel each day, habits carry a lot of weight in the outcomes we see in our lives. So, if we want to see a specific result, we need to think, act and feel with intention. This is where positive habits come into play.
The next time you think about starting something new, try these 5 tips:
1. Start with something that’s important to you right now. Trying to start something new because it’s the latest fad, or because someone else thinks it’s important is not enough ammunition to get a healthy habit going. It has to be something that you value and that is important to you now. It must rank a minimum of 8 out of 10 in significance. If you can’t get yourself to do something, ask yourself honestly, is this important to me right now? Why or why not?
2. Give yourself options. When you have a specific goal in mind, for example, lowering your blood pressure, rather than doing the first thing that comes to mind, make a list of several things that could contribute to your desired outcome. Give yourself some variety. With the blood pressure example, this might look like: eat one additional serving of vegetables daily, meditate for 5 minutes daily, drink 1 additional glass of water daily, use calming essential oils before bed etc. From there, choose the option that you can easily get yourself to do. You can always add more later.
3. Start small. Several books have come out in the last decade that drill down the fact that in order to be successful with a new habit, you must start with something small and doable. The moment our brain feels overwhelmed is the moment that counterproductive thought train starts, leaving us questioning whether we should do this new thing at all. But what exactly is small? Well, rather than starting with a 20 minute daily meditation or reading an entire chapter of your textbook before bed, you might start with 5 minutes of meditation or 5 pages of your book. Pick something that you will inevitably DO. Once you get the initial momentum going and begin to feel confident in your new habit, you can up the ante.
4. Piggyback on something you already do. Habit science tells us that habits are triggered by something else.This means that a habit is essentially a chain reaction. For example: After I brush my teeth I turn on the coffee pot. After I turn on the coffee pot I throw 2 pieces of toast in the toaster, and so on. By attaching your new habit onto something you already reliably do, it has the potential to fit seamlessly into your day.
5. Give yourself credit. All too often we focus on the things we did wrong or failed to do. What if we actually gave ourselves some praise for the things we did do? What if we became more focused on our accomplishments than our failures. How might we think about ourselves then?
Ultimately, we would create a new self-concept. One where we are confident, capable, and reliable. If you truly thought this way about yourself, how might your life be different?
The next time you go to start a new habit, what will you do differently?
Whitney Coupland is a Certified Health and Life Coach. In her coaching practice, Whitney works with those who want to improve their health while still enjoying their life. You can connect with Whitney by visiting her website WhitneyCoupland.com, booking a free consultation or finding her on Instagram @WhitneyCoupland_
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