We are constantly bombarded with messages that inform us of the best ways to spend our time. But above the time we spend working and meeting other people’s needs, we must take time to care for ourselves. Most people find self-improvement in creating routines and adopting habits. Simply put, habits are defined as behaviors that become repeated without you having to think about what you are doing.
More About Habits
Successfully adopting a habit does not happen overnight. In fact, it can take longer than the commonly accepted 21 days. Many variables can determine how easy or difficult it is to break or adopt a habit such as your current lifestyle and upbringing. So, it may take as soon as a few weeks or as long as 8 months for a learned behavior to become automatic.
According to MIT researchers, there are three components to forming a habit that makes up what is known as the habit loop. All habits start from cues, an internal or external trigger that forces you to find a solution to a problem. The cue is resolved by the routine which is the action itself that we want to become a habit. Then the reward encourages us to repeat the behavior when we feel a positive response. If we don’t become better after our actions, there’s no desire to repeat what we’ve done.
Forming a habit is easier said than done. We know a lot about the science behind why we do what we do. But it can be hard to transfer that information to actions. That’s why we have gathered a list of steps to adopt a habit that anyone can accomplish with determination and a little help. Here are seven easy steps to help you adopt any habit:
Focus on one habit at a time
Once you become determined to work on yourself, it’s easy to get carried away with ambitions. It’s understandable to want to read more, exercise more, and be more organized simultaneously. The truth is that you will be more successful if you focus on one thing at a time. This means choosing a specific habit to form or one to replace. Trying to adopt many different habits at the same time only leads to unnecessary stress.
Set realistic goals
Without any goals, it’s difficult to determine quantifiable progress and when you will be fully satisfied. Ask yourself what you want to achieve in a specific time frame and how this habit can improve your wellbeing. Write down your plans on how you will adopt a habit using these steps as a framework.
To make habits realistically achievable, it is key to break down large tasks into more manageable ones. When you feel like you don’t have the time or energy for a new habit, create behaviors to accomplish in bursts. Over time, it will become easier to incorporate a habit into your daily routine.
Habits are by definition repeated tasks. Therefore, it’s necessary to continue working toward your goals on a consistent basis. Slipping up on a new habit is far more destructive for long-term success in the earliest stages. When a new habit hasn’t become an automatic routine, you may have to remind yourself what it is you are supposed to do. Consistency instills discipline to make conscious changes to your lifestyle even when you are under pressure.
Share your progress with others
An unexpected aspect of adopting a habit is to get others involved. Share with the people around you what you are holding yourself to do until it becomes natural. Having a support network can mean the difference between being victorious and giving up. Not only will you have people to hold you accountable, but they can also be there to offer advice and encouragement. Maybe your progress will inspire others to go make positive lifestyle changes as well.
Foster an environment for growth
Often, it’s necessary to make subtle changes to your environment to support a new habit. Anything from the state of your physical spaces to the messages you intake has the power to affect the consistency of your habits. Distance yourself from negative influences that could discourage you from continuing. Cutting out distractions is another effective way to enhance your focus on productive habits.
Keep a positive attitude
Even when you are determined to make a change, remain consistent, and set yourself up for success, things can still go wrong. But when you make a mistake or start to second guess yourself, having a positive attitude can take you a long way. Leave your failures in the past and refocus on how you are capable of moving forward. Keeping a journal allows you to track all you are grateful for and the progress you have made.
A large part of keeping a positive attitude is remaining patient with yourself. Remember that habits take most people multiple months to master, and there’s no one perfect way to adopt a habit. There’s likely no need to rush the process of making gradual changes to improve your lifestyle.
As aforementioned, you can only successfully adopt a habit when there is a reward for doing so. One helpful way to set up a personal rewards system is to choose milestones or future dates to celebrate. A good reward will encourage you to continue your self-improvement journey and continue this new habit. It doesn’t matter if you have made mistakes along the way or felt unsure of what to do. More importantly, rewards give you something to look forward to as you make steady progress.