Sick of feeling stuck in unhealthy habits?
Read this! (Part 1)
“Get more sleep. Drink more water. Exercise. Cut down on junk food. “. How sick are you of telling yourself the same things?
When we think of healthy habits, chances are most of us already know some of the basics about WHAT to do and not do. And in last week’s blog, we went into how habits are formed and reinforced in the habit loop ( Cue ➡️ Craving ➡️ Response ➡️ Reward as found in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits). But even with this knowledge, HOW do we set ourselves up for more success in starting new habits, changing existing habits or stopping unhelpful habits?
This week we’re going to look at the first two of Clear’s 4 Laws of Behavior Change from Atomic Habits and how we might use them to help those healthful habits stick.
Law #1. Make it obvious. / Make it invisible.
With SO much of our daily lives consisting of habits that we barely need to think of ( brushing our teeth, having coffee, switching on the TV), it makes sense that we’ve got to put our new habit right in front of our faces in order to get to the point that it becomes second nature. I won’t start working out if my exercise shoes are stuffed at the back of the closet. I won’t choose more nutritious foods as often if the pantry is full of cookies. Our environments are chalk full of cues that trigger behaviors, so evaluate your spaces and situations to make a new habit impossible to miss, or to remove the old habit from view.
Further, we can “stack habits” by using established routines and using them as a trigger for a new desired habit. For instance : “ After I get in my pajamas every night, I will read for 5 minutes.” Place a book on top of the dresser which holds your pajamas to cue you to read and stay off your phone as part of the bedtime routine that gets you more sleep at night.
And of course making a habit obvious to yourself means that we can’t be vague like, “I want to be healthier this month.” Instead aim to be as specific and clear with yourself as possible. Name when and where the habit will take place. “ I will walk around my office building for five minutes after lunch Mondays and Wednesdays.”
Law #2 Make it attractive. / Make it unattractive.
We want to do that which makes us feel good. A rise in dopamine, the “feel good , happy hormone”, is the motivation for carrying out countless of our actions. Looking back to the habit loop, we’re hardwired to be motivated by rewards- it’s the promise of reward at the sight of a cue that causes us to experience cravings and to act in the first place. In some cases dopamine may actually be higher during the craving phase than the actual response phase— for example staring at the perfect photo of a fast food burger may actually be more pleasure than how you feel during and after consuming it. Yet, in spite of knowing a stomachache may not be following far behind 🤣, that dopamine drive is powerful stuff!
So rather than suffering though healthy habits you hate, look to pair habits you want to adopt with habits you already enjoy. Go for a walk while listening to your favorite podcast. Have a video call with your family while you food prep. Join a Zumba class with your best friend as a form of socializing while working out. Prioritize and find enjoyment and pleasure in carrying out the habit NOW rather than just waiting until you see results after weeks of practice.
Finally, reframing a healthful habit in a new light can make it seem more attractive. If all of your life you’ve thought of working out as torture, try to keep away from language like “killing it in the gym” or “punishing myself for that slice of cake.” Substitute in phrases like “joyful movement” and “playing around outside” or focus on rewards like gaining strength and energy to be able to keep up with your kids. Similarly, make the habits you want to break unattractive by highlighting the downsides and negative impacts they have on your life.
With how much habits take up our lives, no wonder there is still so much to say about them! One thing is for sure- new habits take time and repetition so keeping them on our minds and in our blog is a good way to help them stick :) Next week we’ll dive into Clear’s final 2 Laws of Behavior Change from Atomic Habits to equip you with even more knowledge to confidently create and maintain habits that makes you feel great!
Finally, want to add to your joyful movement routine this week? I have a special livestream Zumba class this Thursday evening 7:30pm Taipei time with the theme Dance Club Queen. Come join us to dance to some of our favorite pop princesses like Lizzo, Blackpink, Beyoncé and more! See you then!