3 Tips for Building New Habits
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So you want to start something new? You recognize the need for a change and you’re ready to put in the work? Good for you! Seriously, take a moment and appreciate the commitment you’re making to bettering yourself.
How long does it take to form a new habit?
Forming new habits isn’t easy. There’s a common belief that started with a psychological basis that we need 21 days to form a new habit. While that might be a good benchmark for starting out, in the real world it may take a bit longer than that. One of the big studies on habit forming showed that it can take anywhere from 18-254 days to form a new habit. That’s a huge range and that’s because there’s so much variety in the types of habits people want to adopt and what makes some easier than others.
If the 254 days thing hasn’t scared you off, then read on! We’re about to share some tips that can give you a better chance of making sure those new habits stick for the long haul.
Tip 1: Know why you’re doing it
Understanding your reasons for starting a new habit is so important. The people who are most successful at changing their behaviors have a clear idea in their mind of why they want to do this. It’s not about “losing ten pounds.” It’s more about “losing ten pounds will make it easier for me to enjoy playing in the backyard with my kids.” When you get specific about the reasons you want to start a new habit it’s easier to question the temptations that might derail you. Know your reasons and hang on to them.
Tip 2: Start small
A common problem when trying to form new habits is starting too big. People over commit, don’t hit their self-imposed targets, and conclude change is impossible. That’s why they fail. Instead, start small with a habit you know you can commit to (for example committing to a two minute walk every day instead of an hour). You’ll feel good and motivated as you hit that easy target. Then you can build from there. Small incremental changes are easy to make, and really add up over time.
Tip 3: Tie it to something you already do
Starting a new habit can be tricky because it’s not part of our daily routine. Think about your day. Is there something you’re already doing that you can tie your new habit to? If you want to drink more water, can you commit to having a full glass before you start each meal? If you want to floss more, what if you did it while you were in the shower? If you need to remember your vitamins, could you keep the bottles by your car keys so you pop them before work? If there are things you’re already doing that you can tie your new habit to, these activities can help you trigger your new behavior.
It may take time, but it’s going to be worth it
Be kind to yourself, but stay motivated. Changing your behaviors and replacing them with new ones isn’t easy. But you might be able to use a few tricks to give yourself a better chance of being successful. Know the reason why you want to change your habit and consider writing it down (even if you don’t show it to anyone else). Start small and celebrate your progress because each small change brings you closer to a big change in your life. Tying your new habits to stuff you already do can help you remember your commitment to a new behavior without even thinking about it. Be prepared for the long haul, but start today.