Studies show that between 40-95% of what we do each day is habitual. Our morning bathroom routine, commute to work, the thoughts and conversations we have throughout the day, how we choose to relax in the evening and the last few things we do before bed are often made up of habits. Some habits are beneficial (like brushing your teeth) whilst others can be detrimental to health (like spiraling into a state of anxiety every time you open your email inbox). The fact that many of our actions are habitual and unconscious means we don’t have to use valuable brain power and energy agonising over the minute details of each day, and instead these tasks have been automated to free-up thinking space for those all important decisions – like whether to wear the Gossypium Snug Sweatshirt in marl gray or ruby.
Whilst it is useful that our brains decide for us whether something needs active focus or can be filed away as a habit, it does mean that some of our ‘negative’ habits can be hard to break, and creating new habits can be challenging too, since we have to use a lot more brain power to do it. According to research, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to create a new habit – on average it’ll take about 66 days for a new habit to become automatic, so whether you want to start meditating, moving more or develop a healthier morning routine, follow these 5 steps to creating healthy habits.
Know Your ‘Why’
When you’re creating a habit, it’s important to have a valid reason as to why you’re doing it. Knowing your ‘why’ is important, because it’s the point you can return to if you face a challenge on the path to creating your new habit. Without a ‘why’, it’s easy to let a habit slide or to lose your passion along the way. Understanding why you want to meditate, exercise or eat a healthy breakfast provides motivation and fuels your drive to do your habit.
The type of ‘why’ we choose is important too; when something is extrinsically motivated it means our reasons for acting are based upon something outside of ourselves, like practicing yoga so that others will be impressed by your flexibility, or exercising just because you’re worried about what others think of your appearance. These types of ‘whys’ mean that our actions are based upon fear, which makes the habits less joyful and harder to maintain. When something is intrinsically motivated however, it means our reasons for acting are based upon how we feel emotionally and mentally, our own sense of self-worth and ultimately what we really feel is valuable to us. This could look like meditating because you want to feel more peaceful, or drinking a matcha green tea each morning because you love the ritual of tea drinking and the nutritional benefits it gives you.
To uncover your true ‘why’ behind your habit, use the Do It For Yourself journal, to help understand what makes you tick, with 75 thought-provoking prompts, and five stages to journal though, including: ‘getting going, building momentum, overcoming setbacks, following through, and seeking closure’.
Make Your Environment Work For You
One of the biggest obstacles to creating healthy habits is our environment. Where we live and work, and how we organize our space can either support a habit or stop it in its tracks. The more obstacles or ‘friction’ there is in the way of a habit, the less likely we are to actually do it. This is why dedicating a small space for your meditation and making it inviting with a Yogamatters luxury home meditation kit could be the key to actually starting that meditation practice to bring you inner peace. If you want to make a habit of practicing yoga every morning, roll out your eco flow yoga mat the night before, and it’ll be ready and waiting for you to jump on in the morning. If there was one ‘rule’ of habit making, it might be; ‘make it as easy as possible’.
In the first few hours after waking, our bodies have higher levels of adrenaline, cortisol and dopamine. At healthy levels, these hormones all help us feel more motivated, which is why habits done in the morning are usually the easiest and most likely ones to succeed. Especially if you want to create a habit of exercising or something that requires a lot of focus, it’s best to place these early in the day, when research shows we experience a lot less ‘limbic friction’. In simple terms, it means our brains are happier to take on challenges or do something that requires more thinking power in the morning, rather than when we’re more tired in the afternoon and evening. So, set out your skipping rope, swiss ball, or your Five Minutes In The Morning journal, and start your habit early in the day.
Stack Your Habits
Another top tip for making habits easy is to stack them on top of something else you already do. A practice made popular by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits, ‘stacking your habits’ means you’re more likely to remember and do them every day. Think of something you already do each morning; like boiling the kettle, taking a shower or brushing your teeth. The idea is to take one of these actions, and simply ‘stack’ your habit on top of it. Some of my favorite habit-stacking practices include a few rounds of sun salutations whilst the kettle is boiling, setting a mindful intention for the day whilst brushing my teeth, and meditating for a few minutes directly after pouring a morning cup of coffee. Linnea Dunne’s Good Mornings: Morning Rituals For Wellness, Peace and Purpose provides inspiration on which habits you may want to stack to make your mornings meaningful.
Finally, when you’ve chosen your habit (and your ‘why’ behind it) made your environment work for you, chosen an early time of day, and the action you’re doing to stack your habit upon, it’s time to visualise all the steps of carrying out your habit in order to prepare your brain to make it happen. Visualization is a powerful tool for manifestation, and when we visualize moving through certain actions, we create and strengthen neural pathways that make it feel as though we’ve already ‘practiced’ those actions before. With these improved connections in the brain, it feels easier when we come to carry out our new habits, and the easier it is to do, the more likely we are to keep doing our healthy habits every day. The only thing left to do now is repeat it all over again the next day!
Which healthy habits do you want to create?
Emma is a 500hr qualified Yoga teacher, musician, massage therapist, cook, and writer. Having grown up surrounded by Yoga and meditation, Emma began her practice at a young age and has continued to study and develop her understanding of Yoga on a daily basis. Training internationally with inspirational teachers, Emma’s passions her now lie primarily in philosophy and Yoga off the mat. Emma currently teaches regularly in Sussex, co-leading teacher trainings, retreats, workshops and kirtans, and also manages the Brighton Yoga Festival.