Are you sick of the traditional New Year's resolution drama? Yeah, turns out it's not the most effective way to make change. Research shows that making small changes over time is a game-changer for long-term success and can be much more effective than that one huge (most of the time poorly defined) goal we set each year.
Understanding the Science of Habits:
Here's the simple answer - ever heard of the habit loop? It's our brain's process for making things automatic. This loop has three steps: cue, routine, and reward. Studies show that our brains create neural pathways during this loop, turning behaviors into autopilot activities. Let's understand and exploit this process to form the habits that we want.
Set yourself up for success
Have you ever heard the line "it's easier to eat zero doritos than it is to eat one"? If you know that the snack monster is likely to possess you at some point in the day and your goal is to snack less (or snack better), then set yourself up for success by not having them in the house or by replacing them with snacks that still hit the spot without as many negatives. We all know that many processed snacks are designed to overcome even the strongest willpower. I personally sometimes blink and half of the bag of chips has evaporated. A little bit of planning ahead can turn the tide on long term habit forming (or breaking). A good example of this is setting out your workout gear the night before if you want to start hitting the gym first thing in the morning. Removing these little pinch points can really make a difference.
Strategic Moves with Piggybacking:
Want to add some new healthy habits to your routine? Time to talk strategy – enter piggybacking. Instead of going all-in at once, piggyback new habits onto the existing ones. Research, like studies found in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, confirms that linking a new behavior to an established routine increases the chances of it sticking. Waiting for the jug to boil in the morning? Pop some air squats, write your daily to do list or listen to a 2 minute focus meditation.
Combine piggybacking with setting up your environment for bonus power - if you have a physical to do list leave it near the jug for a visual cue when you turn the jug on. Before you know it you'll be writing your to do list automatically while the jug heats up.
Life's Seasons: You are where you're meant to be in this moment.
We like to think of life as having different seasons. Sometimes you're all pumped up, and other times you're cruising at a calmer pace. Sometimes times are tough and you feel like you aren't getting anywhere and sometimes all the doors are opening and you're sliding through effortlessly.
Acknowledging the natural ebb and flow of motivation helps us treat ourselves with more understanding and compassion. Let's judge ourselves less this year. Embracing this rhythm helps in navigating the journey more smoothly. It can be hard to take steps in the right direction when your relationship with yourself is one of judgement - It's natural to think "why am I so lazy?" or "I suck, I achieved nothing last year" if you haven't quite met your expectations for yourself. The trick is to not let these seasons define you. We can change that dialogue to "last year was a slow season, I must've needed that. I want this year (or quarter, or month) to be a season of change and progress, lets set ourselves up for that".
In the spirit of the new year we've collected a handful of new habits to try and piggyback off of your new or existing routines.
Water Boost: Piggyback off your morning routine by having a glass of water right after you wake up. It kickstarts hydration and is a refreshing way to begin your day.
Stretch Breaks: Tie a quick stretching routine to your regular breaks or transitions during the day. Whether it's a short stretch after sitting for a while or a quick yoga pose during lunch, it can help improve flexibility and reduce stress. There are plenty of great Youtube channels for some quick and powerful mobility and stretch routines (our current favourite is Tom Morrison Mobility. We're not affiliated, we just love them!)
Veggie Power: Include a serving of veggies during a meal you consistently have each day. Whether it's adding spinach it to your omelet (it shrinks so much that you barely even notice it) or having a side salad with lunch, it's an easy way to boost your vegetable intake.
Active Commute: If you commute to work, consider parking a bit farther away or getting off public transportation a stop earlier. It adds a bit of walking to your routine without much effort.
Mindful Breathing: Practice a minute of deep, mindful breathing before you start your work or at the end of the day. You can link it to opening your laptop or shutting it down.
Healthy Snack Time: Pair your afternoon break with a healthy snack like fruit, nuts, or yogurt. It's an easy way to curb cravings.
Daily Steps Challenge: Set a goal to take a certain number of steps each day and tie it to a specific routine, like walking around while talking on the phone or taking a stroll after dinner.
Teeth-Exercise Combo: Do a few squats or leg lifts while brushing your teeth. It's a quick way to add some mini exercises to your routine.
Gratitude Reflection: Associate a moment of gratitude reflection with a daily ritual, such as sipping your morning coffee or winding down before bed.
Tech-Free Time: Designate a tech-free period in the evening, maybe during dinner or an hour before bedtime, to promote better sleep quality.
The key is to keep these habits small and manageable, so they blend easily into your daily life. Over time, these tiny changes can lead to big improvements in your overall well-being.
Remember, building habits is a nuanced adventure. With a strategic approach like piggybacking, steering clear of New Year's resolution stress, and understanding the natural rhythm of motivation, we can set ourselves up for sustainable change. It's about setting ourselves up for success, embracing the process, learning what we can from our seasons and enjoying the ride. 🚀