About half of everything you do during any particular day, is habitual. That means you do it automatically with a minimal amount of conscious thought.
My day usually starts with coffee. I may consider how much I’m going to enjoy my first sip, before I get out of bed, but I rarely stop to ponder whether or not I should make it, or the steps involved in its creation.
As I reach the kitchen, I feed the dogs then pour myself a mug of java. It’s an automatic behaviour. Habits are your brain’s way of conserving energy. If you had to consciously consider every single thing you do during the day, you’d soon be exhausted. That’s the upside to habits, but as with most things, it also has a downside.
Rather than mindlessly making your way to the office, store or friend’s house, taking time to notice your surroundings will help foster positive wellbeing. But there are times when habits serve you more than being mindful.
This is especially true if you’ve made a commitment to live differently in 2023. Perhaps you pledged to live more healthily or to be less dependent on your phone. Developing some supportive habits could be just what you need to make intentions like these come true.
Humans have a limited amount of willpower. If you count on determination to get you off the couch and to the gym, you may find yourself giving up before your desired goal is realized. You can increase your chances of success by creating a few helpful habits.
Rather than stopping to decide whether or not you should go for a walk, wouldn’t it be wonderful if daily exercise was a habit, you didn’t even think about?
Habits are formed when you repeat actions often enough that they become automatic.
Let me share three things you can do to increase your likelihood of turning a conscious behavior into a habit.
Stack your habits
Make a list of some of the habits you already have. This could be brushing your teeth, eating regular meals, or going to work. Attach your new behaviour to an existing one.
Have a glass of water before or after every meal. Do some squats while you brush your teeth. Park further away from the office to get a few extra steps in. Adding to an already existing behaviour can give you a much-needed boost towards success.
Give your action consistency
Time of day is a good example of this tip. Go for a walk first thing every morning or stop at the gym on your way home from work. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to move every hour.
Having a consistent context is a great way to increase your chances of success when it comes to forming habits.
If you decide to go to the gym, play pickleball, or swim regularly, find a buddy to keep you company. You’re less likely to miss your sessions when you know there’s somebody expecting to see you there.
It’s hard to say how long it’ll take to turn your action into a habit. That depends on you as an individual, the behaviour you’re trying to ingrain, and the number of interruptions you experience.
Sixty-six days is commonly considered to be the time needed to make an action habitual, but don’t get discouraged if it takes longer. That’s only an average. Research shows it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a habit to be formed.
Happiness is boosted by breaking free of mindless actions and living more consciously. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon all your routines or automatic behaviours. It’s about finding balance.
Afterall, making exercise a habit doesn’t mean you can’t stop to smell the roses while you’re there.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.