We all know self care is important: exercising, eating healthy meals, meditation, etc. The internet is chock-full of information about why self care is important. However, the real head-scratcher is how to incorporate those self care habits into your daily life and make them stick.
According to Leo Babauta, author of “Zen Habits,” suggests that there are eight common reasons why people do not stick to a habit:
- Habit is too difficult.
- You don’t enjoy doing it.
- Too many habits at once.
- Too many other things going on.
- Changes in routine (sick, travel, visitors, big project at work).
- Not really motivated to do it.
- You talk yourself out of it.
- You miss a day or two and get discouraged.
So what’s the recipe for making a habit stick? Here are our four tips…
Focus on Small, Achievable Goals
When you feel motivated to change, it’s easy to jump into a new habit with 110 percent effort. However, when the motivation dies down and your self care becomes a chore, it’s more difficult to continue that habit, resulting in difficulty restarting and getting back on track.
Instead, consider focusing on small, achievable goals that grow the more invested you become in a habit. For example, if you have resolved to eat healthier throughout the week, you can decide to set a goal to remove soda from your lunch order. Once that habit has stuck, you can add another, like only going out to eat once per week.
Building upon smaller, existing habits is much easier than diving deep and attempting to take on five habits at once.
Have Empathy for Yourself
It’s important to ditch the “all or nothing” mindset when it comes to habit change. Just because you didn’t stick to your habits in the morning, doesn’t mean you can’t reroute your day and get back on track in the afternoon. Too often we fall into the thinking pattern that we have to “start fresh” on a brand-new day or a brand-new week. That is why the concept of New Year’s resolutions and “New Year New Me” is so appealing.
Having empathy for yourself means understanding that you will have setbacks. When you struggle to stick with a habit, make a note to yourself why that is and try to readjust moving forward. For example, maybe you can’t stick with your gym habit because you have to wake up early in the morning and you have more energy in the afternoon. How can you adjust to make the habit more appealing and approachable for yourself?
Create a Routine
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, developed a framework known as the Four Laws of Behavior change, which “provides a simple set of rules for creating good habits and breaking bad ones.”
The framework is as follows:
|The 1st law (Cue)||Make it obvious.|
|The 2nd law (Craving)||Make it attractive.|
|The 3rd law (Response)||Make it easy.|
|The 4th law (Reward)||Make it satisfying.|
Clear uses the practical example of turning on a light switch in a dark room to break down this framework:
|Problem phase||Solution phase|
|1. Cue||2. Craving||3. Response||4. Reward|
|You walk into a dark room.||You want to be able to see.||You flip the light switch.||You satisfy your craving to see. Turning on the light switch becomes associated with being in a dark room.|
“The key to creating good habits and breaking bad ones is to understand these fundamental laws and how to alter them to your specifications,” says Clear. “Every goal is doomed to fail if it goes against the grain of human nature.”
Change Your Mindset
Self identity and efficacy is an important part of making lasting change.
Consider, for example, someone who has never been particularly athletic and has not, in the past, enjoyed physical activity. It would be easy for that person to say, “I don’t work out,” or “Working out is so awful.”
If that person then attempts to build an exercise habit to improve their health, they would want to change their mindset to “I aspire to be someone who works out three times a week” or “I am working on becoming a healthier person.” This not only takes away the pressure of labeling that person as “athletic,” but it also encourages empathy and a reframing of a past identity that may hold that person back from forward motion.
Healthy Habits You Can Incorporate into Your Routine
As we inch closer to the New Year, we begin to review our goals for 2021 and what we would like to do in 2022. Here are some habits to consider taking on (if you haven’t already):
- Find a fun and consistent exercise routine
- Try out “meatless Mondays” where you eat vegetarian meals once per week
- Give your brain a break with a short daily meditation
- Resolve to take a 30-minute walk every afternoon
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day
- Track your water consumption
- Take a week to try out meal prepping as a way to eat healthier and save time
- Read a chapter of a book each night before bed