If you want to form a new habit, there are three steps.
- Identify the right triggers and rewards to use.
- Make it easy to start the behavior.
- Be consistent over time
Habits can be hard to form. But once they’re set, they’re hard to break.
That’s why it’s so important to create good ones — habits that are useful and productive and help you live a better life.
If you’re having trouble forming new habits, here are some tips for making them stick:
1) Start small
2) Pick a cue and a reward
3) Make it easy to succeed and hard to fail
Habits are automatic behaviors that occur without conscious thought. They can be positive or negative, but they are always based on previous experience. For example, if you have a habit of going to the gym after work, you do it without thinking because it is a routine you’ve repeated many times before.
Habits are often hard to break because they require conscious effort to change, but they can also be difficult to form because they require conscious effort to create. If you want to start running every morning, for example, it takes a lot of motivation and willpower to get out of bed, lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement when all you want to do is snuggle into your warm sheets and fall asleep again.
Here are tips for forming new habits that stick:
Pick one thing at a time. When trying to change multiple habits at once, it can be overwhelming and discouraging — which makes it more likely that you will give up altogether instead of sticking with any one change long enough for it to become automatic behavior. Pick one new habit at a time and focus all your energy on making that one change stick before moving on to another new habit (or two).
You know that a habit is something that you do without thinking. But what if you want to change a habit? How do you form new habits that stick?
The first thing to understand is that habits are formed by repetition, and they’re reinforced by cues and rewards.
The more often you perform a specific action, the easier it becomes to perform it again — and the less mental energy it takes to summon the desired behavior. This means that once you’ve developed a habit, it will be much easier for you to repeat it in the future because your brain has already committed it to memory and knows how to go about performing the action.
Habits are also reinforced by cues, which can be external or internal. For example, if your morning routine involves having a cup of coffee after brushing your teeth, then the act of brushing your teeth serves as a cue for having coffee. If this pattern is repeated enough times, eventually the cue itself will trigger the desired behavior without any conscious effort on your part.
Finally, habits are reinforced by rewards — positive feelings we get when we complete an action successfully or engage in an activity we enjoy doing. These rewards can be immediate (such as feeling pleasure upon eating chocolate) or delayed.
If you want to create new habits, you have to first understand how habits work.
Habits are behaviors that we repeat without thinking much about it. When we do something over and over again, the brain will eventually associate that action with a reward and make it easier to do in the future.
The most popular way to change your habits is through a technique called habit stacking. Habit stacking is when you combine multiple habits into one routine so you can accomplish several goals at once. For example, instead of just waking up and going for a run, you can also brush your teeth and drink a glass of water (or other hydrating beverage).
If you’re trying to form new habits, there’s no shortage of advice out there.
But many of the most popular articles and books about habit change are long on theory and short on practical advice. You’ll find plenty of ideas about how to build good habits and break bad ones — but few concrete tips for how to actually do it.
Here are some strategies that have worked for me over the years:
- Start small
- Make it automatic
- Celebrate your successes
You’ve probably heard of the “keystone habit” — an idea that one good habit can help you develop other good habits.
But what if you want to form a new habit that isn’t related to another existing habit?
It’s surprisingly difficult to do.
In this post, we’ll go over why it’s so hard to form new habits, and how to make it easier by understanding your own psychology.
When you’re trying to form a new habit, it can be tempting to just do the same thing every day until you make it a habit. For example, if you want to meditate each morning, you could just set a reminder on your phone and do it every day until it’s no longer a struggle.
But this doesn’t work because there are two big obstacles that get in the way of forming new habits:
It’s difficult to overcome inertia and stick with something when it’s hard. If it feels like too much of an effort to do something, we’ll find any excuse not to do it. For example, if you feel tired or lazy in the morning (like most people), then meditating will be challenging at first. If your alarm goes off and you don’t feel like getting out of bed, then getting up isn’t going to happen. It might even seem easier not to meditate than it does to get out of bed and get started.
We tend to overestimate how much willpower it takes to form a new habit — and underestimate how long it takes for our brain and body to adapt to new behaviors. When we try something new, our brain needs time.
How To Form New Habits That Stick
A few months ago, I decided to incorporate flossing into my daily routine. I’d been meaning to do it for years, but never got around to it. So I decided that every night before bed, I would floss my teeth. The first few days were rough — it felt weird and uncomfortable. But after a week or so, it started to feel normal and then eventually automatic.
It’s now been about seven months since I made that decision and I haven’t missed a day yet!
I know what you’re thinking: “Of course you floss every night! You wrote an article about it!” Well, yes…but not always. Before this experiment began, I probably hadn’t flossed more than five times in the last year (when I had braces).
If you want to change a habit, you need to be aware of the cues that trigger your behavior. These cues are often visual, like the sight of sugar-loaded cereal in your kitchen cabinet or the feeling of the bus seat vibrating beneath you.
Once you know what triggers your bad habits, you can work on changing the associated behavior. For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, don’t go to bars or smoke outside where you’ll be tempted by other smokers.
If you’re trying to eat healthier foods, don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry or bored — go when you’re well-rested and have plenty of time on your hands.
Once you’ve identified the cue for your bad habit and changed it so that it no longer applies, it’s time to set up an alternative response that will help break the cycle. For example, if every time you see a cigarette smoker outside a bar, your first instinct is to light up too, then put some gum in your purse so that when those urges strike, instead of acting on them immediately, you can chew for five minutes before acting on them.