Small daily habits lead to long-term growth
Habits. We all have them.
Some are good, like waking up early each morning or working out consistently.
Some are not so good, like multitasking or ditching quality sleep for another Netflix episode.
And then there are those we really struggle to shake and often hide from the world.
Some habits are pretty easy to break with a little effort, while others may have a strong hold on you and can take some deep soul-searching and commitment.
The good news is that our habits are not engrained in who we are, and we are not doomed forever! Bad habits can be broken, and new, healthy ones can be developed to improve our lives.
As Charles Duhigg, journalist and author on habits and productivity, once said, "Change might not be fast, and it isn't always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped."
Any habit, no matter what it is, can be developed, changed, or shaken all together. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen!
Small changes can lead to significant results, and your future self will thank you once all of the small changes add up.
Here's how you can develop and stick to a new healthy habit in as quickly as 60 days (or less!)
It starts with a list
Make a list of good habits you would like to see yourself implement in your life.
No matter how small or big, putting them on paper helps you identify these goals and discover deeper inner desires and aspirations.
What stirs excitement, inspiration, motivation, or even gives you a few tummy flutters?
What have you always wanted to try?
What has tickled your curiosity in the past?
You may admire someone who runs weekly half-marathons. Or maybe you envy people who wake up at 5 a.m. Perhaps you've wanted to go on that Euro trip for ages but struggle to save money.
Write it all down, and then order the habits you want to develop from the easiest to achieve to the more challenging, longer-term goals and habits.
Drink more water
Eat less sugar/ drink less coffee
Watch less TV, read more
Start exercising at least 3-4 times per week
Train for a half-marathon happening in 4 months
Save money monthly to go to Europe next year.
The power of one
Now that you've made your list, pick one habit that is easy to achieve and that you can start with immediately.
Why only one?
Making drastic or even minor lifestyle changes can be exhaustingly overwhelming if you try to do it all at once. You may head for disaster and end up right back on the couch, binge-watching series and falling back into old patterns. not the goal here!
Picking one habit or goal gives you a safe place to start. It pushes you slightly out of your comfort zone, but not so much that you feel like a headless chicken on the loose!
When you make small daily adjustments to your daily routine, it can alter your life.
So, start small with a realistic and simple habit and make it your focus for the next couple of days or weeks.
Once you have developed one habit, or at least start to feel more comfortable doing it, it will be easier to start developing more habits. A snowball effect will be set in motion.
make it a priority
For a habit to stick, make it a priority in your daily routine and anticipate any roadblocks. It will take deliberate, conscious effort, and it will feel unnatural at first. Make it a non-negotiable part of your day, week, or month and plan around it.
Schedule it into your calendar if you have to.
Set reminders on your phone.
Have visual reminders and inspiration on your phone, desktop screen, or office desk.
Whatever it takes to be continuously aware of your aspired habit.
Want to drink more water? Add several reminders on your phone to drink a glass of water or fill up a 2L bottle and have it finished by the end of the day.
If you want to exercise daily, make the necessary arrangements to ensure you can do this. Block off time in your calendar to work out or go to the gym.
If you want to limit sugar, you need to get rid of all sugar-containing foods at home. Read up on how to avoid excess sugar, especially those hidden in the least expected foods. Did you know tomato sauce is loaded with sugar?!
If you want to stop smoking or drinking, avoid places or situations that encourage you to drink or smoke.
You catch our drift.
If it is important enough, you will prioritize the habit.
Consistency is the name of the game
Deliberate practice and consistency will rewire and train your brain and create new mental maps for thinking and behaving. And this is the process of developing a habit.
You must actively make an effort every day, or the habit won't stick.
A study done by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, found that, on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic—66 days, to be exact. Some subjects even took as long as 254 days to form a new habit.
Phew. We know what you may be thinking - that is quite a long time to keep going at something every day!
But here is the good news! The study also found that "missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process."
So if you mess up or skip every now and then, it is totally a-o-k. Forming better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.
Just don't give up!
Progress leads to momentum, and consistent steps lead to the compound effect. Soon the habit will be engrained, and there will be no stopping you!
Find an accountability partner
Depending on the habit, support from others can be the thing that gives us that extra push to truly change our lives for the better.
Having someone to confide in and motivate you when you need it most can be advantageous, especially if this change or goal is a challenging one.
The "buddy system" can be extremely effective in reaching similar goals and keeping you on track. It helps to know that you are doing something together and are not alone.
We are more likely to do or stick to something when we are pressured by others. For many, the fear of letting someone else down is much more prominent than letting yourself down.
Find someone who wants to see you succeed or wants to start the same habit, and check in with them regularly.
Accept the wins and setbacks
Go easy on yourself!
You have already taken the first step toward change, and sometimes change is hard! When we get pushed out of our comfort zone, we face uncomfortable truths, making us "itch."
But this very "itch" builds momentum and makes progress. We want the "itch"!
Embrace all the uncomfortableness and know that you are working on yourself, which is something to be proud of! Accept all the small wins and progress.
And when you face setbacks or skip a day of habit-forming, take a breather and maybe go a few days without your habit. Don't beat yourself up!
Instead, embrace and celebrate how far you've come. You want to enjoy this new habit, not resent it.
Each day is a day you are bettering yourself, and each day is an accomplishment!
Be proud of yourself, and keep going!