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Creating Habits for Positive Change

by Beth on February 17th, 2020

The hardest part of change isn’t knowing what you should do, it’s doing it. The two things that have helped me include more well-being practices in my life are: 1) make the behavior easy and 2) find a cue to remind me to do the behavior.

In his book, Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg explains that behaviors happen when there is motivation, ability, and a prompt. While most of us try to rely on motivation to start a new habit, motivation is fickle. We just can’t count on it for behavior change. As far as ability goes, the easier something is to do, the easier it is to turn that behavior into a habit. Finally, no behavior occurs without a prompt. There must be something that nudges you to act.

This means that in order to start a new habit, you need a cue and the behavior needs to be easy. The best prompts are other behaviors you already do. And the way to make something easy is to break it down into the smallest behavior possible. By starting small, you are more likely to be successful, which will inspire you to continue and to grow the behavior. Small behaviors will also let you keep going on bad days, so the habit sticks.

Here are some of the ways I have used prompts and small behaviors to adopt positive habits:

  • Planks twice a day – After I brush my teeth in the morning and at night (cue), I do planks. I started doing a plank for just one count (easy), but I’ve worked my way up to two 30-count planks with some stretching in between. If I’m tired at night or rushed in the morning, I do one short plank to keep the habit alive.
  • Meditate after lunch – After I eat lunch at home (cue), I meditate. I started sitting in a chair and taking a long, deep breath (easy). I slowly added more breaths and now meditate for 20 to 30 minutes. On days that I don’t have time, I sit in the chair for one deep breath.
  • Drink lemon water in the morning – After starting the coffee pot (cue), I squeeze a lemon into water and drink it (easy). If I don’t have any fresh lemons, I still drink water while waiting for the coffee to brew.
  • Mindful pause while waiting in line – After getting into a line (cue), instead of scrolling through my phone, I started taking a long, deep breath and noticing something around me (easy). Now I take two long breaths, notice five things I see and three things I hear, followed by two more deep breaths. If my turn comes before I’m done, I stop and smile.

It can be fun to identify cues and easy behaviors that will help you create habits for positive change. Let me know what you come up with!

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