Photo by Hannah Olinger
So, you’ve examined your daily habits and you have come to the conclusion that you would benefit from setting a new habit for yourself. You’re taking a positive step in the right direction. Everyone has some habits that could be ditched altogether or changed. Healthy habits heighten happiness. But, what’s the best way to go about forming a new habit? We know that creating a new habit takes some time, at least three weeks. And to create a novel habit, you’ll have to repeat the behavior enough times to form new neurological pathways in the brain.
Oftentimes, it’s easier and takes less time to create a new habit by building it onto an existing one. Essentially using an existing habit as the trigger for the new habit. When forming the new habit is perceived as easier, less intimidating and less overwhelming the rate of success becomes higher. The chance that you will slip up or give up altogether decreases.
Building a new habit onto an existing habit can be done when you utilize a cue that already evokes a behavior. You can then add the new behavior to the existing habit. For example you decide that you want to start a new habit of practicing gratitude. You would like to start a gratitude journal that you write in every morning. You already have existing habits in the morning you can build onto. A common morning habit is drinking a cup of coffee. So, one way to build your new habit into an existing one would be to keep your new gratitude journal next to the coffee maker. Every morning, as you drink your coffee, you are reminded to write in your journal.
Eventually, writing in the gratitude journal every morning becomes a habit as you drink your coffee. Starting a new habit that sticks and changing existing habits can be tricky. We, as humans are said to be creatures of habit. In fact, some studies show that our daily behaviors are about 40% done out of habit. Changing habits requires conscious decisions and effort. But, by adding a new habit onto an already existing habit, changing your routine is made easier. Therefore, you will be more likely to stick with this new desired habit and less likely to give up or to have slip ups along the way.