Updated: May 6, 2021
8 things you can do to help new habits stick for good.
One of the most common mistakes when trying to develop a new habit is making it overly complicated, long-winded, and challenging to complete. Many of us often get caught in this trap because we want to change several things at the same time. The reality is - your brain can only focus on so many things at once, and when it comes to developing new habits, sufficient time, effort, and dedication are all required to make those desired habits automatic and permanent.
Identify a simple habit you can repeat daily to boost your wellness
It could be starting the day with a glass of water and a decent breakfast. Being hydrated and well fuelled will help ensure you have sufficient energy to maximise your success in following other desired wellbeing habits throughout the day.
Keep it short and sweet
When defining your new daily habit, keep it short so it's easy to remember and you know exactly what you want to achieve. If you can, attempt to keep the number of words in the habit definition below 10. For example, ‘spend 5 minutes every morning meditating’, ‘switch off my phone 30 minutes before bed’ or ‘stretch before bed’.
Make the habit attractive
A key component to making a habit stick is to have a clear reward as part of the process i.e. the benefit you get from completing the habit routine. Start each day, reflecting on at least three benefits you will gain from completing your desired habit and savour the positive feelings you get when completing it.
Make the timing of the habit short
The longer it takes to execute the habit, the less motivated you will be to keep it going. Humans can get bored easily, and there is some research suggesting that if a period of 20 seconds is added to a simple habit, the chances of an individual repeatedly executing it is significantly reduced. Alternatively, try and reduce the time of the habit by 20 seconds and you will be more likely to stick with it.
The earlier the better
It's common knowledge that you have more energy at the start of the day, and that fatigue can significantly influence your self-regulation abilities. If you have the opportunity to complete the habit in the morning, be pro-active and seize the opportunity. The better you manage your time, the more likely your wellbeing habits will become automatic.
Take regular breaks and mentally disconnect from your life routine
Your brain is like any muscle and needs regular breaks to recharge and continue functioning at an optimal level. So, get into the habit of pressing the pause button and disconnecting. You can achieve this through mindful breathing, paying attention to the environment around you, listening to instrumental music, or placing yourself in a green space. Research has demonstrated that green spaces are particularly helpful for restoring our attention and calming our emotions.
Use the power of positivity
Behind every habit is a mindset. The way you mentally approach developing a habit determines your chances of success. When we think positive and boost our self-esteem, positive emotions such as optimism, belief, and happiness are activated. More importantly, these positive emotions allow us to broaden our perspective about situations, promote solution-focused thinking, and give us the hope and optimism we need to keep replicating healthy well-being habits.
Focus on one habit
Many people believe you can focus on two things at once, but this is an illusion and any activity that requires active attention cannot be done simultaneously. The brain does a great job at giving the illusion you can multitask because of how quickly the brain can process information, but if you ever compared the time it took you to complete a task separately vs. doing two tasks at the same time, you would find that you can complete the task quicker when done on its own. Furthermore, when habits are new, the brain needs to intensively focus on learning how to perform it, so that the information can be stored in its long-term memory. In other words, doing multiple habits at the same time could hinder the habit loop and your attempts at learning new habits.