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How to build positive habits into your life

Written by Sarah on

I talked in my last blog about using a holiday or a change of season as a spring board to start new positive habits and break old, less helpful habits. This can be easier said than done despite our best intentions - life sometimes just gets in the way, so it can be useful to have some habit building strategies in your toolkit.

A few years ago, I read James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, which has tons of useful tips and case studies about building and maintaining better habits. I’d recommend reading the whole book as it’s a pretty inspiring read (also available as an audiobook). The one thing which really stuck with me, which I’ve personally implemented and also recommended to clients is the concept of habit stacking. This involves adding a new habit to an existing ingrained habit (in effect stacking it on top).

Think about the daily habits you already have in your life. It’s pretty likely that you brush your teeth everyday as an automatic action. You don’t have a dialogue with yourself about whether this is something you want to do today, analyse the pros and cons, consider whether you feel like it. You just do it. Automatically. No decision making required.

How about making a cup of tea or coffee in the morning? This is something which most of us have as part of our regular routine. We just go to the kitchen, fill the kettle, prepare the mug, all while probably thinking about something else and planning our day ahead.

By using habit stacking, you can add a habit you’d like to establish on top of an existing automatic behaviour, meaning it’s more likely you will complete the new one, as the ingrained pathway for the old habit is strong. Think of it like listening to an album, after a few listens your brain anticipates what the next song will be, as it’s used to hearing the tracks in a set order. Your habits are like the tracks on the album, once you stack your new and old habits together for a couple of weeks, one will naturally follow another without too much conscious effort.

Think about the daily habits you already have - consider the ones you might like to develop and where there might be a natural fit between the two. Maybe increasing your water consumption is a current goal you have. If you already have the habit of putting the kettle on in the morning to make a hot drink, take the opportunity of being next to the tap to fill a glass with water and to drink it whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil. If you want to incorporate a daily yoga practice you could do 10 minutes of stretching after you brush your teeth in the morning or evening.

You can also combine two habits at the same time – doing some pelvic floor exercises whilst waiting for the kettle to boil or standing on one leg whilst you brush your teeth to improve your balance!

The possibilities for this are pretty endless, you just need to think creatively. The best way to start is probably with one simple new habit that you would like to develop, rather than trying to build lots of new ones at the same time and, ultimately, not maintaining any of them. Once you have successfully maintained one positive habit, it will give you the confidence to try more difficult ones and you will slowly start to have a healthier daily routine with both short and long-term positive impacts.

If you’d like to discuss how you can add more positive habits into your life to help you achieve your health and fitness goals get in touch for a free consultation.

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