If you want to start a new habit the most important thing to remember is to keep it REALLY simple!
When you start to create new habits, if you give yourself too much to do, if it’s too hard or your goal is just too unrealistic, your motivation will disappear in a puff of smoke and you will feel like a failure and give up. But if you start with something really small and that is easy to achieve, the sense of achievement you have from doing it will make it so much easier to continue.
If you say you are going to run 5kms three times a week that may work for the first week or two whilst your motivation is high and you’re feeling enthusiastic ….but then what happens when the weather is horrible one day, or you have too much work on and you miss a few runs? Suddenly you feel you have ‘failed’ and you give up.
Instead make the distance much shorter – say you will run around the block rather than 5kms or say you will do it once a week, or maybe start with walking. When it’s much more do-able, you are more likely to keep going and because it’s so easy you will WANT to do more. As long as you do the basic requirement you will have succeeded and any more, well that is just a Brucey Bonus!
How long does it take to create a new habit?
There are many trains of thoughts on how long it takes to form a new habit – they range anywhere from between 21 – 60 days, so weeks or months to engrain a new habit. However new research is showing that if we keep our new changes of behaviour really small, simple and achievable they can become engrained into our daily lives much more quickly.
The definition of habit is ‘something that you do often and regularly sometimes without knowing that you are doing it‘ (Cambridge Dictionary). So we don’t have to hope that willpower, motivation and ‘a wing and a prayer’ will push us through for 60 days to make a change – which is really good news because sadly these are often in very short supply over a long period of time.
The brain naturally likes things that are easy to do, if it’s too hard or difficult we tend not to want to do it. Whenever possible our brains will always encourage us to take the path of least resistance, the easiest and quickest route to our destination, even if it’s not really where we want to end up. So by keeping the changes small and simple we are doing just what our brains crave and this means we are much more likely to keep repeating this new behaviour.
Our brains also like a reward when we have achieved something as this will encourage us to repeat the behaviour. The natural neurotransmitter Dopamine is released each time we do something that makes us feel good, also known as the “feel-good” hormone, a vital part of our brain’s reward system. One way to receive an instant reward and keeping on track with new habits is by using the Habitify app. It’s a great way to make habits easy to remember and you can instantly see and celebrate your success.
Before you can change a bad habit, you need to ask yourself a simple question.
What is this ‘habit’ giving you?
Are those cigarettes CALMING you?
Is that chocolate bar COMFORTING you?
Does scrolling on social media help you feel CONNECTED?
Do you feel more CONFIDENT when you drink?
You need to understand what the bad habit is giving you or in other words is there something missing in your life that you are seeking through that bad habit. In all these examples you are receiving something positive and valuable that makes you feel momentarily good but are you finding it in the wrong behaviour?
In order to create a new habit you have to think what alternative behaviour or actions would give you the same benefits and good feelings. Think about what has given you those feelings in the past. We have to look a bit deeper to see WHY we are repeating this unwanted behaviour and what it gives us so we can find a better replacement and create a healthy new habit.
Add a simple new habit or change onto something you already do
When we add a new behaviour onto something we already do, it flows and feels more natural and normal. It doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary and becomes a natural addition to our day. This is one of the easiest ways to start forming a new habit.
What do you already do?
When you get out of bed …DRINK A GLASS OF WATER
While you wait for the kettle to boil …SIT QUIETLY FOR 2 MINUTES
While the shower is warming up …DO A SUN SALUTATION
When you need a break from your desk…TAKE A QUICK WALK AROUND THE BUILDING
When you switch off your computer after work…LIST 3 IMPORTANT TASKS FOR THE NEXT DAY
Notice the change
Whether it’s starting to drink more water, moving more, finding some calm in your day or being more organised, adding a simple change onto something you already do naturally will make it easier to do regularly. These can help you feel less stressed, more energised, refreshed and focused allowing some of those OLD bad habits to drop out of your life more easily as you replace them with something that gives you the positive feelings you really crave.