Starting a new habit can be tough and now that our New Years resolutions are distant memories it’s a good time to check in with how we are tracking towards our health goals. We all have new habits we want to make a part of our lives!As a Pilates teacher teaching Pilates near Ballina, as a mum juggling business and family and as a partner I rely on healthy habits and routines to support me EVERYDAY.
I want you to have the support of healthy habits so I have collected my best tips for starting a new habit in your life. I draw on lots of experts for my approach: BJ Fogg and his Tiny Habits work influences me a lot, Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield and The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor are books I have read and reread to help me develop my approach to self care.
Tip 1: We change by feeling good
This is number one for a reason. It’s important. Everything we know about brain function tells us this, we change by feeling good not bad. This means when we choose our habit and follow the steps below to support ourselves for success, we cannot beat ourselves up when we forget to do the thing or when things don’t go to plan. It’s all feedback especially ‘failures’ and if we use them to learn and to tweak they are valuable!
Changing by feeling good can also mean changing our self talk. Berating ourselves for starting small or for needing to work on this habit in the first place is very unhelpful. So if you have this kind of self talk going on it’s important to shine a light on it, see this pattern of self talk, thank it and ask it to quiet down and move aside for some more helpful thoughts like. “Starting small sets me up for success” and “This is what I need to work on right now, no judgement”.
Tip 2: Observe your daily habits
You already have habits. They may not be ones you have consciously chosen but we all have behaviour that we repeat without thinking. What do you do when you get out of bed? What are behaviours you repeat everyday and in what order do you usually do them?
Take a few days to become very observant about your own repetitive behaviours at different times of the day. Do you always reach for something sweet after lunch? Or turn the radio on when you walk in the door? Do you always brush your teeth just before bed? Be observant over a few days and then write down these repetitive behaviours in the order that you usually do them through the day.
Your list of repetitive behaviours and their order is the blueprint for your life. These are the behaviours that set your course towards (or away from) your goals. Notice we are not judging the behaviours, just listing them and noting when in the day we do them.
Tip 3: Choose your new habit
There are a couple of important things to note about starting a new habit. It needs to be something you really WANT to do, not something you think you SHOULD do. Just roll that around your head for a moment. Something you really WANT to do.
The other thing to consider when choosing your new habit is the size of the behaviour. You want your new habit to be TINY. I know you are super excited about doing 50 push ups a day and you are feeling really motivated BUT I want your new habit to be something you can do on your worst day. Even on your worst day you can have a go at 5 push ups, but 50? No too much, it’s too hard, I have a headache. It’s not to say you can’t do more than 5 push ups on a good day but you commit to doing at least 5 everyday no matter how you feel.
So you have chosen something YOU really want to do and you have shrunk it down to a tiny behaviour. Time for Tip 4.
Tip 4 Find a prompt
To find a prompt, I want you to pick up your list of repetitive behaviours and look for a logical, convenient place to slip in your new habit. For example if your new habit is to drink more water and your tiny version of that is to fill your water bottle everyday, maybe when you take your dish back to the sink in the morning, you put your new habit in here. Your prompt would be when you put the dish in the sink, you find your water bottle and fill it up.
The key here is for the prompt to make sense, it puts you in the right place to do your behaviour and acts as a reminder to do it. If you find that you forget your new behaviour it may be because you don’t have the right prompt. Trial and error with prompts can teach us about how best to support ourselves.
Tip 5 Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!
I said that 3 times because this is the step that everyone skips. And this bit is essential. Every time you do the new habit, you have to celebrate! In a way that feels good for you. I like a good fist pump in the air, but some prefer a discrete nod of self satisfaction, others like a victory dance. Whatever makes you feel well pleased with yourself!
This goes back to Tip 1 We change by feeling good. The positive feelings we get from the celebration capture the attention of our brain. Our brain takes note of what happened just before we got that flood of good feeling! The brain takes note and will want to repeat the behaviour that led to the good feeling.
Celebrating needs to happen straight after you do the new habit so your brain associates the good feeling with the new habit. This is the way to anchor a habit loop in your brain.
Tip 6 Review
Now when things don’t go to plan or you forget to do your habit here are some important steps. Celebrate when you remember! This is usually when we like to give ourselves a big judgement kick. Resist the urge to judge yourself right now, take the moment to celebrate that you remembered your new habit, yes fist pump, victory dance what ever is your thing. Then go and do your new habit right away and celebrate again!
If you find yourself forgetting a lot it might be that you don’t have the right habit, either it’s not something YOU really want to do or it’s not TINY enough to do even on your worst day. Or it might be that you don’t have the right prompt so go back to your list of repetitive behaviours and see if there is a better spot to link in your new habit.
Staying out of judgement and seeing all outcomes as feedback is the way to review. Never forget Tip 1 We change by feeling good. As soon as we are judging ourselves we are making it harder to make a new habit stick.
Starting a new habit can be daunting but if we take the self judgement out of it and use what we know about our brains it can really help us to succeed. If you need more help check out my free Tiny Self Care course. This course steps you through the process above with video prompts and support to ask questions. So you can move closer to your health goals.