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How to Create a Habit That Sticks

By Heidi Baldwin, MS, Holistic Health Coach

Let’s face it— habits are hard to create. Before they can become ingrained in our routines, they require motivation, dedication, time, and effort. It’s not easy to stick to something new, but there is a method that works better than most efforts. Here are some tips on creating a habit and how to use habit stacking to achieve your goals.

What is Habit Stacking?

Whether they’re good, bad, or neutral, we each have our fair share of habits ingrained in our routines. These are the habits you don’t even have to think twice about, such as brushing your teeth or driving to work. Habit stacking takes advantage of these habits that we have already developed to build new ones more easily. Link the habits you’re trying to create with the ones you already have. For example, if you have a routine of making a cup of coffee every morning and you want to drink water as soon as you wake up, you can drink a glass of water while making your coffee. Not only does habit stacking help you remember to do your new habit, but it also gives you a specific time and place that you must do it. It uses what your brain already knows.

So, how can we use habit stacking to create new habits? The first thing is to take note of all your current habits. What do you do each day or each week that comes easy to you? Write this down. Then, find where and when it makes the most sense to link new habits to your old ones. For example, if you know your mornings are busy, don’t make lunch while drinking your coffee. Instead, prepare your lunch the night before, right after washing the dishes, or another nightly habit that you already have. Or set aside time Sunday evening and Wednesday evening to prep lunches for the next couple of days lunches. This is a great way to ensure time-saving, AND healthy lunches, and that is a win-win!

Start building your habits with a small timeframe. Don’t expect to meditate, for example, for one hour the first time you try it. Start with one or two minutes until you get comfortable with that. The easiest way to give up on a goal is to have overly high expectations from the start. Instead, we want to integrate these habits into our routines gradually. Try to do your new habits at the same time each day so that it becomes a part of your routine. Then, you can build up to larger timeframes.

Set reminders. Don’t expect to feel motivated and excited to do your tasks every single day. There will be days that you feel unmotivated or simply forget, so set reminders to keep yourself on track. You can create a notification on your phone or a visual reminder, such as putting your running shoes near the door, or putting your smoothie glass on the counter next to your blender before you go to bed the night before. These cues will help remind you when life gets busy, or when you don’t have as much motivation.

Lastly, reward yourself for your hard work. Building a habit is a lot of work, and it helps to associate it with positive outcomes, such as seeing friends or having a spa day. Not only will this motivate you to keep going, but you also deserve it. Try not to have rewards that contradict your goals -- make sure the goals make you feel good afterward!

It takes time to make new goals become a habit, so make your list, however long or short, and decide which you want to implement first. Use one of the above-mentioned tools to help you implement your most important goal, and then when it becomes a new habit you can go back to your list and see what the next positive change is that will be implemented into your daily life. Don’t wait until New Year’s to set your intentions and make unreasonable resolutions. Start your process now, and you can celebrate ringing in 2022 by already being a better version of yourself!

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