What do you think about when you think of the word HABIT?
Do you go straight to ‘bad habits’? I think of things like nail biting or skin scratching, or drinking wine every night. 😜🍷
Habits in themselves are not bad, but we often think of the bad habits we, or the people around us have that frustrate us.
Some of the most complained about things that annoy people include, jittery legs, noisy eating, pen clicking, interrupting conversations and knuckle cracking. I can definitely identify with some of those, I can't stand jittery legs!
We all have things that we are annoyed by, and we don’t have to look very far. Our partners and children can have habits that can continually frustrate us, but surprise surprise, a habit, while it is possible to change or build a new habit, needs to be done by the person whose habit is it, not by mum standing there yelling “For goodness sakes, can you just quit doing that already!?”
Let’s have a look at what is required to create a new habit.
I want to use an analogy, and I love to bake so I will use the analogy of an afternoon tea treat for friends and family and the recipe you will use.
There are 3 parts to creating a healthy habit, and 3 parts to this recipe.
What will you make?
Bee-sting, Black forest cake, lemon meringue tart? (That’s my favourite!) – Whatever you want to bake!
Why are you creating/baking an afternoon treat?
You have friends and family coming over and you want them to enjoy your creation. You want your afternoon it to be of a certain quality, fully cooked through of course, presentable and tasting delicious.
How will you make this? This your method: Your How-to-Step-by-Step bake your ‘WHAT’ for your ‘WHY’. If you ever watched MasterChef on TV then you will know that some recipes have pressure points. These pressure points are areas where you have to pay special attention, areas that require more effort and focus, otherwise your recipe may not turn out, your cake will collapse or your curd won't set, and you will not have a nice treat to present for your family.
There you have the recipe, but what can that look like in the real world?
What is the new habit you want to create? Simple question.
18 months ago I decided to create habits around a more healthy life. This included exercise, physio, eating better and having a better sleep routine. Some of those things have definitely been easier to achieve than others.
You might want to create a habit of journaling first thing in the morning, or before you go to bed. Or maybe you want to establish an evening routine that is more peaceful. You might want to get better at playing an instrument but the habit of regular practicing seems hard to implement. Maybe you just want to drink more water on a daily basis.
I have been a nail biter all my life. I don’t know how or when it started, but once it did, it took hold, and has so far been a lifelong habit. I have tried many times to overcome this habit, seemingly succeeding at times just to fail again a few months later. It has been the hardest.habit.to.kick.ever!
I am currently in month 8 or so of not biting my nails, and yet I still have to pull myself up at times when that subconscious wants to take over.
Why create this new habit? Even though this comes after ‘What’, your WHY is the most important aspect of creating a habit. Knowing your 'why' will give you the motivation to push through when it gets tough. Your WHY will be the reward of creating and successfully implementing a new habit. This is why people make vision boards, or hang up a picture of their dream holiday because they are making a habit of saving towards this dream holiday, or why I had my favourite jeans hanging on my door for ages as I was trying to get my pre-baby body back… Note: I did not 🤣
This requires some reflecting and writing it down will be even more powerful as a motivator.
How will you implement the habit? Here you need to plan your step-by-step process for your new habit. This plan requires you to think how YOU will best attain a new habit. Other people do it differently, so you need to figure out what works for you. Be aware of the pressure points, these will require special focus.
So for example, back to my horrible nail-biting habit, these are the steps I followed.
What: No more nail-biting
Why: Because my fingernails are weak, and don’t look nice.
1. I painted my nails in order to avoid biting because nail polish doesn’t taste nice.
2. I figured out my triggers. To do that you can ask yourself these questions:
- When does it happen?
- When does it NOT happen?
Asking these questions means you can see a pattern and figure out your triggers.
My triggers were boredom and stress. And not that I am actually bored very often, but I found reading a huge pressure point and I had to find a way to keep reading but not bite my nails. The other trigger was stress and anxiety, especially when I had a specific thing I knew I had to deal with, or a situation that was causing me stress.
3. Finding a replacement for nail biting while reading was important. I usually try and chew gum now, as initially I started biting the inside of my lips. 🤦♀️
I was helping a client of mine create a better habit with drinking water more regularly throughout the day. So we went through the same 3 step process.
Drink more water
Because water has amazing benefits, and my body needs it
1. Buy a new water bottle, preferably with some sort of inspirational message on it. Something that makes it a joy to drink from.
2. Find the pressure points: Forgetfulness
3. Set alarms throughout the day as a reminder to drink water
4. Replace other drinks with water
We created a simple system to help this new habit take hold.
Habits are our automatic actions, good or bad, if we want to change or create new habits we need to put in the effort.
Helpful Healthy Habits that we implement into our lives will continue even when life gets tough. If you have a habit of regular exercise or mindful meditation, when something happens that is stressful, those habits can take the brunt of the stress.
Habits can also be implemented in a pro-active kind of way. If you want to stay connected as a family unit as the kids grow up, make it a habit to have family dinners together now, while they are little.
So have a think about which habits are helpful in your life, and which ones are unhelpful habits you want to kick to the curb!
And know that “When the going gets tough, your habits keep you going.”