So, you've realized it's time to create new habits. These past two years likely caused you to slip on a few things that may have been super important to you previously… if you're anything like me.
For example, before the pandemic and during the school year, I would drop my daughter off and head straight to the gym. Now? After more than two years at home, when we decided to send her back in, you'd think I'd have automatically started back on that old routine, right? Nope. If I don't come directly home, I all-too-often head straight to Wendy's for a honey butter chicken biscuit.
(Dude, seriously… have you tried it? Oh. Em. Gee. And no, I'm not sponsored by Wendy's, nor would I consider this a “habit” at this point, but dang if their super awesome reward program doesn't make it something I could easily slip into! Free food almost every visit!)
So now that the weather's warmed up a lot, I'm finding myself wanting to set new, joy-inducing habits. Things like silencing my phone (vibrations, too) for extended periods, especially on the weekends. Or maybe instead of going back to the gym OR going through Wendy's 3x a week, I'll figure out what I can do to fill that time with something healthier—even if that means choosing strawberries and yogurt for breakfast instead.
What's the argument for creating new habits?
Basic stuff here. You create a new habit to improve your behavior steadily, and regularly. You choose to start doing something for yourself that is beneficial for your health, or maybe you want to improve your spiritual practice or work-related habits.
Every zone of your life can be improved by the will to create new habits without fail. Will some last and others, not so much? Sure. But I don't care how perfect your mama/BFF/kids think you are… we all can benefit from improving something with a new habit.
Teaching yourself to get into the habit of something is usually easier said than done, as most people acquire bad habits without even trying. Yet for some reason, it can be challenging to start a new habit. Maybe because the payoff doesn't come with instant gratification as it does with poor habits? I'm thinking that's it.
The next time you choose the brownie or cookie and bite into it, you're getting the instant satisfaction of chocolate, along with a few hormonal mood boosts from serotonin and that strike of stimulant from caffeine.
So… how to easily create new habits?
It's pretty simple. There's a three-step process to building and creating new habits that you need to check in with, and this will make it that much easier to follow until you find that you've made your new habit a part of your mere existence. Remember, when you were a kid, somebody probably harassed you to make a habit of brushing your teeth twice a day. Whether you stuck to it or not gave you the result, you have today.
If you start something new, even if it doesn't go as you'd like, you're still farther ahead a year from now if you stick with it than if you do nothing at all.
Step 1: Identify Your End-Goal
Step number one is to identify what you want to achieve by making a new habit. You really need to be specific as possible, so don't just tell yourself that you want to exercise more. Instead, tell yourself that you want to go for a 30-minute walk every day.
Let's say you want to read more books. Don't just say, “I'm want to read more books.”
You have to decide on how you're going to accomplish the goal so get more specific. Something like, “I'm going to read a novel every month,” would even be more efficient.
Deciding on the exact time and manner of doing it is also important to make the process easier. I'll get into this in step three.
Step 2: Old Habits Die Hard
The next couple of days will be smooth sailing, as you're motivated to keep going. However, it's important to remember that it's easy to slip back into old habits. Consider tracking your progression in a habit tracker or journal (I like to track my day right before bed, and get a good grip on what's on tap for the next day, as well), and you have a much better chance of sticking to your new habits!
Remember, your brain is going to try to stop you. It's entirely possible that you will be able to come up with every excuse in the book to not do the thing.
My own brain has said some version of the following to me on a daily basis:
“You can't go for a walk because suddenly your knee hurts.”
“You're so tired.”
“You have so much to do for work.”
“The kid needs her lunch packed/laundry done/homework checked.”Signed, Lara's brain when it doesn't want to start new habits…
The truth is, it's the old habit of not taking care of my health that's ruling my brain. But ironically, if I were to just get that walk in, my brain would work better and be happier, and so would the rest of my body. So in order to do that, I have to shut it down. Yes, I talk to my brain. I tell her that she's lazy and doesn't know what's good for her.
I also try to remember that my daughter needs to learn how to build good habits. Going for a walk together after dinner every night is going to help her have a good grip on things, even if one day my knee does actually hurt and I need to take that night off.
Step 3: Routine Means Consistent Results
So this is the consistency part. You can't just want to create new habits, unfortunately, you've got to put in the work and resist the urge to fall back. The best way to do that, as I mentioned, is to create a routine.
Want to walk 30 minutes every day? Then as soon as dinner's done, get the dishes in the dishwasher, lace up the sneaks, and get out the door. Create a new habit.
If it's raining, or the weather's not cooperating, maybe head to a mall or even just go up and down the stairs in the house a few times. The point is that the core of the new habit is some kind of exercise – if you prefer walking, do that most often. But don't use even a legit excuse to not meet that core need.
One Last Thing On How To Create New Habits…
I honestly can't stress enough the importance of tracking your goals and progress with any attempt to create new habits. Be it on paper, on the notes app of your phone, on your smartwatch, or wherever. I'm a pencil and paper girl, but you could even use this spreadsheet setup if that's what you're comfortable with!
Whatever you do, stay consistent but don't beat yourself up or get discouraged if you slip backward here and there. The ultimate goal is to create new habits so as to evolve… to become a better version of yourself over time. It should be everyone's goal from childhood to their deathbed if I'm honest, don't you agree? Just be better today than you were yesterday, and better tomorrow than you were last week. It's the marathon, the long haul, the life we are blessed to have and treasure. With all the sparkle we can manifest. ✨