3 Research-Backed Ways to Help Establish Positive Habits
Remember those New Year resolutions harkening way back to early January? Well, let March be the month to turn your resolutions into habits or adjust them accordingly to better suit your current goals.
Now, forming new, “positive” habits is no easy feat, particularly with social media thrusting unattainable ideals at us that encourage self-doubt and unhealthy comparisons. The most important part of habit forming is understanding the structure and psychology behind habits and properly rewarding yourself to make your routine pleasurable and gratifying.
E L I M I N A T E F R I C T I O N
Part of the difficulty of ingraining new habits is the looming presence of procrastination. Once we begin to associate this new addition to our already packed schedule as a additional task to be done, motivation quickly begins to wither, and avoidance begins to take root. So how do we steer clear of falling into this unproductive pattern and, instead, promote motivation?
Eliminate any obstacles or “frictions” that make it harder to get from point A to point B. Once our brain begins to recognize obstacles such as timing, placement, or energy — the new exciting addition to our routine suddenly seems like a longer, more difficult journey than we would like. So the solution is to remove any distractions, or parts of the equation that can cause any sort of hesitation to the task at hand. Before you know it, a more seamless route will then begin to reveal itself. For example, if you are trying to reduce your processed sweets intake, place a bowl of your favorite fruit in a beautiful bowl in the center of your fridge or table. Instead of being lured down the path of searching for something sugary, you remove that temptation by providing immediate gratification with something sweet but nourishing.
E S T A B L I S H C U E S
The best way to make habits last longer is by making them an unconscious decision. We are creatures of habit - everyone has their own schedule. From your morning ritual to the routes you take, every person has their own timeline that is made up of unconscious choices. They are considered moments of comfort and stability — whether healthy or not. By pinpointing these moments we can begin to establish cues.
A cue is anything from location, to time of day, to your last action. This can look like your morning coffee, the time that you typically have lunch, or the way you settle in at home after work. Choose a cue that you know you rely on everyday, and follow it with the new habit you’ve been trying to keep. For example: your skincare ritual might be your cue to then do 15 minutes of stretching or meditation after. The first few times the cue is a reminder and the stretching and meditating that comes after will slowly become an unconscious action.
T E M P T A T I O N B U N D L I N G
The reason bad habits become so easily instilled in our daily lives is because they result in immediate rewards. Unfortunately, good habits do tend to take a little more time to form than bad ones. Going to the gym or eating healthier do provide results over time, and with more time - better results. However, the wait for gratification makes it harder for us to keep motivation and morale high enough to continue. The lack of motivation over time is where choosing your own reward comes into play.
Bundling our new habits with a beneficial but compelling treat that we only get while or after completing the routine, helps retrieve feelings of motivation and excitement caused by the hit of dopamine “the feel good - reward” chemical released in our brains. For example: only listening to your favorite audio book or podcast when you exercise - this makes you itch to get to your next workout to find out where that cliff-hanger left off!
The first few months of the new year are exciting because we get to evaluate ourselves and strive towards a future self. We understand new habits and resolutions can be hard to maintain and easy to lose throughout the year. We hope that these few tips will prolong your new year resolutions or inspire you to create new ones!
With Purpose, Love + Gratitude!