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Habits. We all have great intentions for the habits we want to build, but we struggle to create a plan to bring them to fruition. Before we discuss how to create a habit that sticks, let’s first define what a habit is. A habit is “a settled or regular tendency or practices, especially one that is hard to give up.” What does this mean exactly, a habit is something that we perform regularly, regardless of our energy level or mood and is a part of our routine that we naturally perform. Take brushing your teeth for example. You likely developed this healthy habit as a kid. Your parents made you brush your teeth before bed to prevent cavities and now it is still a part of your bedtime routine to this day. This is only one example of many small habits we have built, some of which are healthier than others. It feels natural to complete the habit and we do so nearly effortlessly. Our bodies have been trained to perform the habit on a specific day, at a specific time, in a specific setting and in a specific order. We’ll be breaking down each of those elements shortly, but for now, just know that with time, habits do become part of our natural routine, regardless of how hard they might appear to accomplish at this moment.
Habit Building Tip #1: Start Small
No one likes being told to slow down when they line up at the start of the race. We like to compete with others, partake in challenges and achieve the best results. But what if the winner wasn’t the one to accomplish the habit first, but who maintained it the longest. Habits are something that we want to maintain over our life if they are healthy ones! Instead of choosing the grandest of habits, start with a theme. For example, strengthening my immune system. There are endless ways to improve your immunity - exercising, deep sleep, nutritious meals, Vitamin C supplements, Vitamin D or exposure to sunlight and stress reduction. A small habit could be taking your Ener-C Immune Boosting Packet every morning with breakfast. Once you’ve mastered that habit after a few short months, then continue to build upon the goal by focusing on getting to bed 30 minutes earlier each night. Then shift your attention to your meals - how can you make them even more nutrient-dense? See the pattern? Master one small habit at a time and build towards the greater goal instead of trying to perform 6 brand new habits at once and failing to maintain them.
Habit Building Tip #2: Habit Stacking
This is one of our favourite tips! Habit stacking is based on the idea of once you complete X, it could be a task or habit, you will perform Z. For example, if the new habit you are trying to build is taking your Ener-C Multivitamin Packet in the morning, this could look like, “after I start the coffee maker, I will make and drink my Ener-C.” This allows you to implement a new habit directly after accomplishing a habit that is already ingrained in your brain and is a part of your routine. This is easier than trying to build the habit by itself as you are already in the routine of waking up, making and drinking coffee. This simply gives you something to do while it brews and gets various vitamins and minerals into your body before it gets hit with caffeine!
Habit Building Tip #3: Time
Have you ever tried to start a new 10-step skincare routine at night when it's 10:00 pm after working a 12-hour day? We haven’t heard of too many people being very successful when it comes to executing habits at early or late hours of the day. To perform a new habit, we need to have at least a little bit of energy and motivation left in our tank. If your goal is to start a new skincare routine, try utilizing the tip above, habit stacking, by stacking the habit with cleaning up after dinner. “After I clean up from dinner, I will start my skincare routine.” Pairing a cleaning habit with a similar task, allows us to transition easily between the two tasks as they are similar and require minimal brainpower. Choose your times wisely when it comes to executing your new habits - this could make or break them! If you want to get serious about a habit, think about days, times or events that could derail your progress. If you sleep at your spouse’s place on the weekends, pack your skincare products in a travel bag so you can move between locations easily without breaking your skincare streak!
Habit Building Tip #4: Location
Location is everything when it comes to maintaining a habit. Think of some of the most common rooms of a house for a moment. The kitchen is the heart of the home where we gather to eat. The living room is a place where we gather for entertainment purposes - to play games, watch television or movies, or simply conversate with our friends and family. The bathroom is the room where we bathe, use the toilet and get ready for the day. Lastly, our bedroom, the room in which sleep and sex should be the only activities occurring within it. Now imagine flipping the purposes of the room. Could you imagine trying to sleep in the living room? Your brain has been programmed to converse and be entertained in this space and as a result, your energy likely increases so you are fun to be around with others. Brushing your teeth in the kitchen sink would feel weird like you’re breaking a rule. All Of this goes to say that location plays a crucial part in the construction of a habit. Try considering the habit and a theme that it correlates with when trying to build a habit. For example, if you are wanting to start the habit of meal planning, this task would best be performed in the kitchen where you are surrounded by the ingredients you have available to cook with, where you can be inspired to create delicious dishes and can easily access your fridge and pantry to confirm what items you need for the week.
Habit Building Tip #5: Consider The People Around You
This might be a tip that you wouldn’t consider when it comes to goal setting, but like location and time, the people you are surrounded by greatly affect your ability to build and maintain new habits. Think back to high school, we all wanted to fit in, so we went with the crowd. If our friends wore pink on Wednesdays, we wore pink on Wednesdays. Habits are only as strong as the length of time we have been carrying them out - meaning, new habits break easily. Consider the habit you are trying to build and who you have in your circle while trying to maintain them. If your goal is to exercise regularly, yet your friends hate going to the gym, consider trying group classes or CrossFit where you are surrounded by like-minded individuals who share the same goals and values as you do.
There you have it, five tips for building and maintaining goals for life!Lindsay Mustard is a Holistic Nutritionist, firefighter-in-training and recipe-wizard with a burning passion for health and fitness. In her nutrition practice, Lindsay works with clients to craft a unique plan that is tailored to their specific health goals using a natural, whole food and supplement approach.