We say we will . . but do we?Exercise more, eat healthier, take up yoga, if these sentiments sound familiar, you’re not alone. With the new year comes the inevitable new year’s resolutions and then after a few days, the ‘I lasted this long’ posts begin to appear. We feel less guilty because ‘hey, everyone around us is breaking their resolutions too’. But what if you wanted to make this year different? What if you made 2018 the year you actually kept your new year’s resolutions?
Creatures of Habit
To create (or break) a habit, it’s essential to understand how they work. First thing you need to know...our brains are laaazy! Habits emerge because our brains are constantly looking for ways to save energy.
Ok, so technically it’s an evolutionary advantage that allows us to concentrate on more complicated things, but the fact is that approximately 40% of our daily actions performed are not decisions, but habits.
Grab a cup of coffee - you're about to crave some
In his book ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business’, Charles Duhigg explains that there are three steps to every habit - the cue, the routine and the reward. Let’s say you drink a cup of coffee every morning. The cue is the trigger that lets you know which habit to engage, in this case it might be sitting down at your kitchen table.
The routine is the habit - making and drinking your coffee. Finally, the reward is the amazing taste and buzz of the coffee. The more often you do this, the more the reward is linked to the action and the stronger the habit becomes!
So how do you create a habit?
Well first you need to pick a cue and a reward. If you want to go for a run first thing every morning, your cue could be your running gear beside your bed and your reward a smoothie afterwards. Allowing yourself to crave and anticipate your reward will help you to create your habit.
The reward doesn’t have to be a physical thing though. We naturally get an endorphin rush after exercise, which is a reward in itself. The key is to anticipate and think about the endorphin rush in relation to the routine and cue. Oh who are we kidding? . . Smoothies all the way!
If the promise of a delicious reward is not enough to get you motivated, there’s still hope. The Japanese philosophy of Kaizen believes the key to creating lasting change is to start small and continue to improve. While our brain is programmed to resist change, by taking small steps we’re able to circumvent the fear response.
Try aiming for 1% improvement each day and while the progress may seem slow at first, it’s far more likely to stick than a sudden change.
Taking it back to your early-morning run, rather than getting up and going for a 5km run every day, which let’s be honest, will probably last max 2-3 days, start off by getting into your gear (the cue) and going for a walk. After a few days, run for 1km, then a little further and so-on until you are smashing out daily 5km runs. Studies have also found that it’s easier to create a habit when doing things at approximately the same time every day.
So remember. . .
Step 1: Choose your habit/goal (and make it realistic - no, you won’t be fluent in French in 3 weeks)
Step 2: Select a cue, the closer it’s related to your habit, the better.
Step 3: Treat yo’self. Find a reward that you can link to your routine. (Eating chocolate after your run, doesn’t entirely defeat the purpose of the run)
And 4: #babysteps
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