Today I want to talk about habits, specifically starting new ones! (Breaking unwanted habits is conversation for another day).
Most people think of a habit as just a couple of behaviours, but in fact 40% of our day to day activities are automatic. A good example is driving a car, getting to your destination and realising you were not thinking about anything you were doing. What was once complicated has now become automatic background behaviour. As soon as a behaviour becomes automatic the decision part of the brain isn't needed - our brain doesn't need to think about everything we do all day long so it can free up mental space for other things, how clever!
Imagine if we can harness this to our advantage?
Here are three tips on how to form a new habit - sooner or later they could become second nature, like driving a car.
1. Start small We all know what happens when we try too much too fast, we get worn out and usually give up. A personal trainer once told me to start drinking four pints of water per day, this was to be the small step that starts me on my fitness regime. The idea is that once I have formed this habit and have already started feeling healthier, I can move on to making other healthy choices. And it worked!
2. Have a clear plan Research has shown that you'll be much more likely to continue a habit if you've decided beforehand exactly when and where the new behaviour is going to take place. You can schedule it in you diary like you would an important meeting - making it more likely to happen.
3. Celebrate when things go well Habits are formed when our brain rewards certain behaviours. The reward for a good behaviour can be something we give to ourselves, like a mental pat on the back or some kind of treat. Or it can just be the feeling that we automatically get after we perform that action. When we are rewarded for a behaviour, it becomes more likely that over time the body will start to crave this reward. This is what causes us to want to repeat those behaviours. If we get the same reward each time, our brain begins to associate the reward with the behaviour. An example of this would be when you clean your house - the reward is the feeling of accomplishment, and the pleasure of being able to sit down and relax in your nice tidy house. Once you start to crave that feeling, then you will have formed a new habit to keep your house tidy!
What new habits would you like to form that would make your life easier or better?