“FIRST WE MAKE OUR
HABITS, THEN OUR
HABITS MAKE US”
English poet John
We are creatures of habit. Habits make life easier and can be comforting rituals. They happen almost automatically in the right context, like brushing your teeth before going to bed. So how can you bring in good changes that you’ll love and that will last?
Here are 5 easy steps to creating new good habits:
1) CHOOSE YOUR CHANGE, THEN DECIDE WHEN AND WHERE. What new habit do you want to bring into your life? And crucially, what’s the context of that new behaviour: the place and time you can schedule it into?
2) PERSEVERANCE: The trick to creating a new habit is repetition. It generally takes a couple of weeks for something to start to feel part of your routine, and an average of just over 2 months for it to become a habit. So a bit of perseverance will pay off, making it easy in the long run.
3) MAKE IT FUN, or at least one aspect of it! We are more likely to repeat actions we enjoy, so find something about the new action that is enjoyable. Listen to something up-beat while you work out, or exercise somewhere beautiful and green!
4a) START SMALL One coach calls this "better than nothing” behaviour. If you only take tiny steps as you start, know that at first, setting the pattern of behaviour is more important than doing lots. Once the habit is established it usually improves over time, such as adding more veggies to your dinner plate, or going for a morning run.
OR: 4 b) START BIG, for those who prefer this approach.
Where most research concludes that it is easier to change one habit at a time, one small study found that complex intervention (changing a bunch of habits at once) helped significantly. Maybe because exercising well helps sleeping well, which helps eating well and feeling better! This works as a virtuous circle (the opposite of a vicious circle). The feeling of real improvement is positive reinforcement to continue new behaviours.
This tells us that either way can work. Take a pragmatic approach: which works best in your life right now? Are you up for the challenge of making several changes at once to get new healthy habits going? Or are you crazy busy and can only manage one at a time?
5) IT’S OK TO SUCK AT IT! At least at first. You don’t get good at something without having been not-so-good at it for a while. Congratulate yourself for carrying on despite not shining at it your first time. For example, when starting yoga, you may feel wobbly and awkward, but with practice you just feel the joy of the movement!
SHINE respects that we are all different, and that different things work for us at different times in our lives. Whichever way you choose, remember to congratulate yourself for the good, forgive yourself when it doesn’t work out initially, and if you don’t succeed the first time then try, try, try again!
We hope the resources SHINE offers you will help you find a variety of healthy changes that suit you so well, that you decide to make them into habits that last a lifetime!