Are you ready to get active? Do you want to read before going to bed? Developing a new habit offers you a chance to boost your daily routine and focus on wellness. However, saying you will do something and making it happen are two very different things. Habit building, although beneficial, is challenging and requires effort, patience, and time. Consider the following information before committing to a new interest, technique, or behavior.
What Is a Habit?
Habits are skills or actions that you have internalized into your daily life. Do you consistently brush your teeth before bed? Do you provide your children with a healthy breakfast? These behaviors don’t require much effort. You’ve trained your brain to complete these things without forcing yourself to remember. You don’t have to write notes. You rarely, if ever, forget, and it requires little to no stress or effort. You run on automatic.
How Do You Build a Habit?
According to Harvard Business Review, people establish habits by focusing on repetition. The brain and body become accustomed to the action by constantly doing something repeatedly. The source notes that this dedication and interest eventually becomes routine—a process that Harvard Business emphasizes is essential to habit formation.
Many habits are choices you struggle to complete naturally. It is a neurological process that doesn’t happen quickly (unless you’re hoping to add cookies to your breakfast each day). Your body doesn’t want to do it independently, so you have to fight to include it within your day mentally.
The Learning Center at the University of North Carolina describes habit formation in three phrases: cue, routine and reward. A cue is anything that signals your mind to complete an action. The routine is the action itself, and the reward is an incentive or reason to get it done (which could be internal or external). These three stages build to trigger an automatic response.
Does your car’s system beep when your gas tank goes below a quarter tank? The noise reminds you to look for a gas station. You enter into the routine phase when you pull over and fill up, completing the action. The reward is that you don’t end up empty on the side of the road.
What Strategies Help You Develop Habits?
New habits remain difficult because they require establishing the loop mentioned above and potentially breaking or altering a routine. The mind doesn’t make those shifts quickly or easily. A healthline.com article reports it can take anywhere between 18 to 254 days to adopt a habit. The article further states that the average person needed at least 66 days to embrace the new routine. Therefore, if you’re planning on changing your diet or writing in a journal, be ready to commit the next couple of months to make that happen.
Several factors impact this timeframe, including interest, organization and mental awareness. Your motivation plays a significant factor. You may say you want to modify how you eat and drink, but without a good “why” in your life, you will find it harder. Give yourself a good reason to accomplish this new goal. A great habit, for instance, could be to provide your children with kid vitamins every morning. Your motivator could be that you want your kids to maintain their health. It might take time to get consistent at this, but with practice, this could become a good habit.
In addition, begin your path to newness, considering how you plan to input this habit. Write out your goal and reason—list microhabitats and steps likely to get you to the finish line. Give yourself a timeline for accomplishing smaller things, and reward yourself as you go.
The New York Times recommends tagging your new habit to something you already like (and instinctually) do. Your mind recognizes the cue, so you could use that trigger to connect two practices simultaneously. For instance, do you want to make a list of things to do each day? Pair it with a morning habit. You probably hear your alarm and think of making coffee. When you head down to the kitchen and start the pot, jot down the short to-do list. Keep the notepad right near the pot to make it easy and save time.
If habits were easy, people wouldn’t struggle to change their behaviors. It’s hard to wrap your head around new things. Give yourself time, understand the process, and commit to it.