New Healthy Habits: 4 Tips on Maintaining Them
By Ashley Gish, DNP WHNP
A healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be something that creates more stress in your life. Healthy habits are meant to help you live better, not be one more thing to add to your ever-growing to-do list. Rather, it should create a sense of ease and satisfaction and help you to be your best self. It’s all about habit stacking! Habit stacking increases the likelihood that you’ll stick by a new healthy habit by “stacking” your new habit on top of an old one. The key to consistency and achieving your goals is to look at a “habit stack” like one single action instead of a series of individual actions.
Remember it’s about progress, not perfection. John Steinbeck famously wrote, “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I’m constantly reminding myself of these words and it’s actually a really helpful reminder in so many areas of my life. More recently, Glennon Doyle took it one step further and said “now that you don’t have to be good, you can be free.” I love this idea that you don’t have to be perfect or even good, you simply have to start and then keep trying.
So how do you find this freedom surrounding healthy habits and create lasting change?
I commonly hear people say they know what changes they need to make, they just can’t actually stick with them. Researchers have found that knowing is not actually half the battle, it doesn’t help with behavior change. Consistency does. It’s all about incorporating small daily practices that become long-term habits and create big results. That’s where habit stacking comes in. Habit stacking is the practice of using the habits you already have to help you create new ones. You can literally rewire your brain to adopt these new habits more quickly than if you tried to forge a completely new path.
For example, if your goal is to start meditating. You might take a moment to analyze your current morning routine. Maybe making coffee is a non-negotiable for you. You don’t even have to think about it. Every morning you just get up, fill the pot with water and grounds and wait.
Habit stacking might look like using the time you are waiting for your coffee to meditate for 5 minutes. By using the momentum of your current routine you increase your chances of successfully sticking to your new routine. And the more you do something, the easier it becomes.
There are a million other examples. Tough time remembering to take your vitamins? Set them by your toothbrush. Want to start a gratitude journal? Set it by your pillow in bed. The list goes on. To get started write out a list of your current daily habits. Then write a list of the habits you’d like to incorporate and find a place they can be stacked.
For the best chance at success, start small with one change at a time, and let go of the idea of what you “should” be doing. Choose habits based on your unique wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. Find ways these new habits can truly fit into your life, not the other way around.
Want to learn even more about habit stacking? Check out this book, “Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes Or Less.” You’ll be glad you did!
Having trouble with creating and maintaining healthy habits? Shift Functional Medicine is here to help! Contact us today!