5 Tricks to Help Form New Habits

The school holidays are a great time to do the things you haven’t had time to do all year that help make you feel yourself again minus all the stress, it’s also a good time to try something new.

We all have these things we mean to do like eating healthy, running, or start a new craft but often find that everyday life makes it difficult to even start a habit let alone keep one going.

Without the distractions of work, the holidays might be an ideal time to start and hopefully keep it going beyond the next school term. Research has shown that habits can take anywhere between 2 – 9 months to form depending on its complexity so it's not an easy ride but it's worth it and most importantly you need to take the first step.

A habit is automatic, many of the actions we perform every day are done automatically and your new habit will eventually become one of these. There are tricks that will help make it happen. 

1) Planning - think small and specific

Having a goal is great but it can be daunting, try breaking it down to manageable chunks. Anthony Trollope wrote 47 novels as well as other works over 38 years and his method was to write in 15 minute intervals for three hours a day. If your end goal is to run 10k and you have never run before, try starting with 2k three times a week then build it up. You’d be setting yourself up for failure if you started on 10k. Set a time and place and keep them the same.

2) Set consistent behavioural cues and chains

Forming a habit is easier if you are piggybacking an existing habit. Say you wanted to start flossing, then do it before or after you brush your teeth, the cue is teeth brushing. To stop flaking out on exercise try changing into your exercise gear the moment you get home and it'll push you to exercise, otherwise you're going to feel a bit odd watching TV in your gym outfit. A behavioural chain is when instead of saying ‘I will tidy my bedroom’, try 'when I get home, I'll get changed and then tidy my bedroom.’  

3) Concentrate on meaningful rewards

Nope, not a chocolate bar but how good you feel when you have completed a habit. That feeling should help you maintain the habit. Studies have shown that people, whose exercise goals are more immediate such as improving energy and mood and reducing stress, spend more time exercising than those who have more long term goals like losing weight and improving health. Focus on how your new habit makes you feel when you do it. 

4) Keep going even if you fall off the wagon

Research suggests that you can still form a habit even if you miss it once or twice. The point is that you're committed to doing it and the more you do it the easier it will get. 

5) Be accountable

Keep track of your progress. A study showed that people who wrote down what they ate had better self-control and did better on their diets. Tell your family and friends, by making your habit public you will get encouragement and having to give updates will help you continue. You never know someone might even join you! 

Habits are about consistency and repetition, you may find that when you start school again it can become a bit difficult to maintain your new habit but try adjusting the time and the cues and carry on. 2 - 9 months may seem like a long time but concentrate on the small goals and how good you feel. Don't let the good work go to waste!

If you are hoping to incorporate the gym into your routine this year, then read about Richard's experience of joining a gym and taking some much-needed exercise. 

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