You have patterns that you do routinely, such as brushing your teeth, locking the door, watching a specific television show, vacuuming, or reading at a particular hour of the day. Try stacking a new behavior with a current habit when starting a new behavior. This is called Habit Stacking.
Examples of habit stacking are:
- You will write down 5 things you am grateful for in the morning when making coffee
- Plan to take your supplements when you brush your teeth at night
- When you are watching television you will take a drink of water during every commercial or break
New behaviors require a trigger or a reminder to perform. The new behavior must be within our ability and requires motivation to accomplish. Start small when building healthy habits to improve your lifestyle.
For example, if you always shop for groceries on Monday, create a goal of adding a specific vegetable to the list. Having the new vegetables in your fridge will trigger you and remind you to eat the vegetable. By adding a trigger to your daily routine, you are more likely to accomplish your goals.
Goals need to be a SMART goal – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. A SMART goal example is: I will purchase one bunch of broccoli when I grocery shop this Monday. You know it is a SMART goal when you can quickly answer “yes or no” without having to use any other words to explain your accomplishment.
A non-SMART goal looks like “I will eat more fruit and vegetables,” which is hard to measure, so the answer requires more description.
Goals need to be very specific, and the smaller, the better.
I am currently needing to add more exercise to my daily routine. My trigger is my morning alarm. When I hear my alarm, I know to get out of bed and do ten jumping jacks. I can stack another exercise following the jumping jacks when I accomplish this for a few weeks. I know this seems turtle slow and is not meeting exercise recommendations just yet, but it is helping me build a successful habit daily.
Success momentum is real. Success momentum is the ego boost necessary to go after another accomplishment. After my jumping jacks, the success that I feel catapults my confidence to do more. An alternative is building a more significant habit that may taper off when I am not feeling motivated. Failure to complete a goal reminds me that I planned too much at once. Failure also may make me lose steam or motivation for the new behavior, which is the opposite of what I am trying to accomplish.
The critical step to creating a goal is keeping it tiny. Think of your goal, then think of what are the small actionable items necessary to complete your goal. Then make those actionable items your new tiny habit for the next few days. It can be as simple as changing into walking shoes at lunch or after work.
Last but not least is the mindset behind the behavior. For a healthy behavior change, a growth mindset is needed. For more information about mindset, visit https://www.theunconventionaldietitian.com/one-simple-step.