A habit is a set of patterns or routine behaviors repeated regularly. It sometimes becomes almost involuntary. Studies have shown that humans are creatures of habit. We tend to do things in a certain way or have a certain pattern of things. Generally, humans like patterns, and even when we don’t realize it, by doing something consistently, it can become almost involuntary. For example, if you have to wake up at a certain time in order to make it early to work, chances are high that on weekends or public holidays, you wake up at that same time.
Developing a new healthy habit can be difficult. Behavioral scientists have attributed the reason for the difficulty in developing new habits to the fact that many people try to develop habits the wrong way. Admittedly, there is no easy way to develop a new habit as it takes commitment which needs a lot of self-control – which can be hard especially when the new healthy habit you’re trying to develop involves stopping a bad habit. However, there are certain steps you should take in the process of developing a new healthy habit that will make the process easier for you.
Very often, people decide to start and keep up with a healthy habit but then they flop. Developing healthy habits takes more than just will power. Will power might fail you and so, you will need a little more than will power. Taking steps to develop a plan along the lines of those recommended by behavioral scientists – who are experts – will go a long way in helping you develop your new healthy habit.
A few tricks have been put together to help make your journey to developing a new healthy habit easier.
- Have a motive
There should be a reason why you want to develop this new healthy habit. If your goal is to have a healthier body, then that should be your motive. Deciding what your motive is or why you want to develop a healthier habit will keep you motivated through the process of change. If you don’t have a reason for developing the habit, it will be difficult for you to keep at it when things get tough. Your ‘why’ is what will keep you going.
When you have a clear understanding of how the new healthy habit will improve your life, then you can write it down and put it in strategic places. Seeing it regularly will help to constantly strengthen your motivation.
- Set realistic goals for yourself
Major changes require a high level of motivation and commitment. When you are trying to develop a habit, it is advisable for you to start small and take it one step at a time. You will need to build commitment and it easier for you to build it gradually. If the habit is too difficult to keep up with, it increases your chances of slipping.
If the new healthy habit you are trying to develop is a major one, then it’s advisable for you to split it into smaller bits. Developing the new healthy habit one step at a time helps you maintain a steady pace of development and you’re more likely to keep up with it. Set realistic goals and be specific so it’s easier for you to measure your progress. Keep up with the set goal and be sure to increase the goal when you think you have met a particular set goal.
- Stack your habits
Experts recommend that an effective way to develop a new healthy habit is to connect it to an existing habit or routine. Examine your routines to notice which one is the strongest routine. Then, add the new habit you are trying to develop into the routine. The rationale is that this makes it easier to maintain the new habit and keep track because you have settled into that routine.
- Develop consistency
Consistency is very important in the process of developing a new healthy habit. A habit can be difficult to develop because it takes a long time to become consistent in it. However, consistency quickens the process of development for your new healthy habit. It will not become a habit if you don’t do it over and over again. Studies show that you form habits faster when you are consistent. You can make it a daily thing, depending on the habit you are trying to develop.
- Set reminders
When you are trying to develop a healthy habit, you will definitely need reminders to help with your awareness. You can use your smartphone to set reminders or paste stick notes on visible areas, inscribing what you want to be reminded of on the notes.
- Take your time
A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology stated that it takes 18 to 254 days for an individual to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for the new behavior to become automatic. Ultimately, the length of time it will take to develop the habit is dependent on the type of habit you are trying to develop. If the new healthy habit involves breaking an old habit that is a pleasure-based habit, then it will be more difficult to break. This is because pleasure-based habits prompt the brain to release dopamine and dopamine creates the craving to do it again.
Whatever type of healthy habit you are trying to develop, it will definitely take time. Thus, you need to patient with yourself and the process.
- Keep track
Get a journal or a notebook for you to keep track of your development. This will help you measure how often you reach your goal and your level of progress. Keeping track makes you more accountable to yourself.
- Get an accountability partner
Being accountable to another person increases your chances of developing the new habit. Extra support and having someone other than yourself to whom you are accountable makes the process of developing a new healthy habit a whole lot easier. It helps make you disciplined.
- Reward yourself
This is a very important aspect of developing a healthy habit. Having a rewarding insight helps you form the habit. This is especially necessary in cases where the reward of the habit you are trying to build will not be evident immediately. When you track your progress and you see improvements, give yourself a treat. Just make sure that the treatment does not involve a bad habit when you are trying to stop one.