How To Make Habits Stick - For Good! | Win Your Week #44

How To Make Habits Stick - For Good! | Win Your Week #44

Win Your Week is our weekly series on mindfulness, meditation and life hacks. This week we're talking about sleep hygiene - a practice that is vital for overall health and wellbeing. Enjoy!

Ever feel like you're constantly bombarded with advice about how to form good habits, live healthier, practice wellness, and everything in between? While this advice is well intentioned, it can sometimes be challenging to implement everything you want to in a sustainable way.

So today, we wanted to talk about how habits are formed and sustained, so we can better understand them and perhaps better implement advice in a manageable way.

First, let’s discuss what a habit is.

What are habits, and how are they formed?

A habit is a learned behaviour that becomes nearly involuntary and is hard to give up. Habits are built through learning and repetition and they are thought to develop in the pursuit of a goal.

First there is a trigger or cue, this could be a location, time of day or emotional state. This trigger then results in a routine that you perform (the behaviour) to get the reward you want which is driving the habit. This process is known as the “habit loop”.
So, for example, if you’re trying to make meditation a habit, a habit loop could look like this: Choose a cue — such as taking a shower — and reward — such as feelings of calm and clarity you get when you’ve finished meditating. Allow yourself to anticipate those pleasant feelings. Eventually, the craving for that reward will make it easier to set aside some time each day for meditation practice.

So, how do we ensure positive habits are sustained?

You may have heard that “it takes 21 days to form a habit”. While this was the common belief for a while, the accepted view nowadays is that it takes much longer to form a habit. With it taking 66 days for ‘automaticity’ (performing the habit automatically) to kick in.

However, this period of time varies significantly between individuals with factors such as resistance to forming habits and the habit itself affecting how long it will take for the behaviour to become a habit.

The trigger is so important in habit forming as it begins the cascade of behaviours that follow (the habit).  Putting ourselves in situation where we are more likely to perform the behaviour is essential in habit forming.

For example, if you are more likely to get a better workout when you are surrounded by others attending group fitness classes would be a better situation to put yourself in than working out alone.

The key to habit forming is repetition. Through repetition it’s possible to form and sustain new habits.

In addition to repetition, intrinsic motivation (the internal force pushing us to engage in a behaviour) is invaluable. Incentives or rewards help with habit-building by getting us to begin to engage in the hoped-for behaviour (such as working out) in the first place.

Building healthy habits can involve putting yourself in situations in which you are more likely to engage in the desired behaviour, planning to repeat the behaviour, and attaching a small reward to the behaviour that doesn’t impede it (such as by watching TV or listening to music while exercising).

Over to you...

Focus less on how long the habit will take to form and more on the work needed to achieve the goal of forming the new habit. It is through doing small steps and focusing on the intrinsic outcome of a habit that the behaviour will become more automated and easier in the future.

We hope this aids you understanding of how habits are formed and sustained, so you can get more out of the advice you want to implement.

Now go out and win your week!