Today let's talk about ways that we can start (and maintain!) a new habit. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to add something into your current routine, even if it's something that is important to you, but keep reading to see how you can make it easier to form a new habit.
Like we learned in the last blog post, a habit is a behavior that you do on a regular basis. They are behaviors that you've done so often that you end up doing them without even thinking about it. According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology1, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. Clearly that means that there are a lot of variables in forming a new habit. The same study shows that it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Even though that sounds like a long time, don't be discouraged! There are ways you can make it easier for you to maintain the habit, so read on!
Creating a new habit can feel overwhelming, but try to remember that your brain likes habits because they’re efficient. When you automate common actions, you free up mental resources for other tasks, isn't that amazing? One trick to picking a new habit to form, is to start small and to only add in one new habit at a time. Be sure not to worry about all the things you think you "should" be doing. Instead create habits that help you move towards your goals in life. Trying to create a habit that doesn't interest or serve you personally won't work out well.
Of course, the hardest part of starting a new habit is maintaining it long enough to make it automatic. Here are some ways you can make sure that you maintain your habit.
Make it a daily habit. Trying to add a habit that you just do a few times a week is harder to maintain than a daily one. Once you've chosen your daily habit, slot it into your schedule (such as after breakfast, or at 8 pm). It will also help you to set an alarm in order to remind yourself for the first little while!
When you're starting a new habit, you might miss a time or two, and that's ok! But make it a goal to never miss twice in a row. Track your progress and reward yourself as you make progress! It might be helpful to you if you enlist an accountability buddy to help remind you and check in on how you're doing. And if you enjoy affirmations, create an affirmation to encourage you!
It's also important to note that if you realize that a specific habit you're trying to form isn't working for you, that's ok! Modify or change it to meet your needs. You are in control!
Creating new habits is a great way to take control of your life, one step at a time, and to focus on making your life work for you. While it might seem overwhelming to add something new, try the tricks and tips we've laid out in this blog post to create and maintain new habits that add productivity and joy to your life!
1: Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998-1009. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674
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