A psychologist reviews easy strategies for establishing new habits

Colorado Jill

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What are some of your daily habits?

It might be flossing your teeth, taking vitamins, exercising, holding the door for people, or making your bed. These behaviors often occur on auto-pilot and become an ingrained part of your daily routine.

You do it without giving it much thought.

You might also have some habits that are not as healthy such as drinking too much soda, biting your nails, or scrolling through social media for hours on end.

We all have habits - some are beneficial, and others not so much.

Make a Habit Scorecard

In his book Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results, James Clear recommends creating a habit scorecard to help you better understand your daily behaviors.

Write down everything you do as part of your daily routine and then give it a score of + (positive), — (negative), or = (neutral).

For example:

  • Wake up and hit snooze on the alarm -
  • Drink a glass of water +
  • Watch 2 hours of TV -
  • Go to the bathroom =
  • Eat a salad +
  • Aimlessly scrolling through phone -

After completing the list, note the number of negative daily habits compared to positive ones.

Do you have a good balance, or are there areas to work on?

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Habit Stacking

If you found some areas for improvement, a great way to begin making changes is by pairing the new habit with current, well-established behaviors.

James Clear refers to this strategy as the “habit stacking formula.” We have a higher chance of success when we add a new habit to an already established routine.

The habit stacking formula is: After (current habit), I will (new habit).

For example:

  • After I get out of bed, I will do ten push-ups.
  • After starting the coffee pot/tea kettle, I will do five minutes of mindfulness.
  • After I brush my teeth, I will immediately use floss and then brush again.
  • After dinner, I will spend ten minutes reading a book.

Habit stacking is a quick, effective way to add health-promoting behaviors into our daily routine.

Consistency Is Key

Another important part of creating new habits is consistency. If you do a behavior at the same time every day or in the same location, it will more quickly become a habit.

If you try to create a new morning meditation routine, but your morning schedule is often disrupted by children, pets, medical appointments, or work demands, this may not be the best time of the day to start a new habit.

Strive to find a time of day when you are the least likely to get interrupted.

Then, stack the behavior with something you are already doing, and watch how your habits evolve and grow.

Final Thoughts

Habit formation is straightforward once you understand the mechanisms of change.

Habits are formed by doing. The more we repeat a behavior, the more likely it will become a habit. We will be more successful if we pair a new behavior with an existing one.

Patience is vital to both creating new habits and changing less helpful ones. It takes time, and a great resource to help you on this journey is James Clear's book, Atomic Habits. Find it at your local library or preferred book seller.

Experiment and see what new habits you can form!

This article is for educational purposes only, not as a substitute for therapy or other medical treatment. I am a psychologist, but I am not your psychologist. There are medical professionals in your local area to help you with your specific situation when needed.

Please follow me for more articles on healthy living, self-care, and personal growth.

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