Build a permanent new habit by tiny changes
How are your new years resolutions going?
Mine was to eat less junk food and move more. I am moving more, but sadly MY JUNK FOOD INTAKE has increased. My god the cakes have me in the depths of sweet sugar gluten addiction.
Why do we get paradoxical reactions when we try to change our behavior for the better? Want to learn 3 simple rules to build long lasting habits?
How do we change our behaviour for the long term? There are many theories of behaviour modification, but we are going to start small, really small. Tiny actually!
Whenever we try to start a behaviour, we generally tend to think
“I am going to exercise more" “I am going to eat healthier” “ I am going to X” But these grand end view behaviour often lead to us not actually doing what we want because they are too hard, too out of character, too vague, too nebulous and have no clear start, middle or end point. Important as it is to have a end goal in mind and to visualise, if you have grand behaviour plans to change, you might get disappointed with how little perceivable progress you make and abbadon the change altogether. You might fall of the bandwagon like I did and decide that you could sneak in one cheeky jam Berliner and its ok. Well turns out when you fail once (the Berliner was the start of a terrible, terrible raid on the shops and bakeries after denying myself sugar for days) its a slippery slope and it becomes easier to just go back to normal behaviour. This ties back in with what I have talked about here on neuroplasticity. When you do something a lot, it becomes literally engrained behaviour in the brain, that is part of your neural circuitry. That means me being a little piggie for a long time, over and over with baked sweet delicious treats is a result of sugar hijacking my sense making pre frontal cortext part to satisfy a deep, primal urge for quick and easy calories because I might die, something something hunter gatherer etc.
Its a build up of my habits over time to when I feel the urge for sugar, instead of reaching for fruit, or resisting temptation, eating a healthy snack etc I go and ride my bike down and get myself a slice of baked cheesecake. Its like the build up when you say you are going to be more fit, you buy a gym membership or get work out clothes, lift one things 2-3 times, get rapped up in life stuff, get tired, lazy and fall back onto sitting on the couch.
The creator of something called Tiny Habits, a behavioural scientist called BJ fogg realised through research and personal experience that the steps to long term change are changing your habits, slowly and surely over time. Look at behaviour change as a long, slow marathon. Take your time, get ready for it to take a while, be prepared for the ebb and flow of motivation and behaviour. Be aware you are human, surrounded by temptation and life is hard and sometimes its difficult to do stuff Aim for small victories, and build up. Habits are the way to change your life for the better
And the easiest way to change a habit: 1. Is to identify the tiniest possible thing to get to that habit rolling, or floss one tooth! 2. To give yourself a vocal or mental encouragement cue, preferably out loud
3. To change how you think of yourself as a person, "I am the kind of person who does X"
The tiniest possible habit start And by tiny, I mean tiny. If you want to floss your teeth more, just start by flossing one tooth. If you want to eat healthier food, eat one healthy snack. You want to do more exercise? Then do one stretch, one walk outside, one walk to the door even. Do literally one thing to build the habit up that is incredibly easy to do. Stretch once, walk to the door, eat one salad leaf. Either remove or add, eat one less mouthful, scroll endlessly a little less It has to be super simple, and achievable, especially if your motivation is low. This is crucial, because we often give up when the immensity of the behaviour change hits our brain and we go back into old habits. Remember neuroplasticity, the more we do a behaviour, the more it becomes ingrained in our brain and life. Try to associate it with a cue, as I talked about here 2. Give yourself a vocal/mental encouragement cue reward BJ fogg is really clear on this part, he wants you to say something that links to your behvaiour so you can cue with multiple things. My favourite is his favourite, which is a high energy “IM AWESOME” If you can tie it in with a physical movement, it makes the effect even more prounced. Mine is a reverse fist pump, with "IM AWESOME" My friends think its a bit odd, but its helping me not get diabetes ok. This is creating a feel good, self created reward that is easy to get, anywhere anytime. You have to be recognising when you do the right thing, and building that recognition in your brain and giving yourself some kudos. You did it, you are awesome! It can also be done silently, but its really not the same. This can be done with a dance, a karate chop, whatever it is keep it consistent and towards rewarding the habit Remember to reward the right behaviour with your cue! 3. To change how you think of yourself as a person "I am the kind of person that does X" "X" can be anything you want to do. I am the kind of person that eats less sugar, or eats well etc Telling yourself that you are this kind of person, is a well researched, well known psychological phenoman. Some people call it affirmations, it doesn't matter what you think about it, its an important part of changing your mind set. Identify as this person, when we think about who we are as a person, we think about who we would like to be plus how we wish to be perceived. It changes your emotional and relational mindset with the habit, making you more inclined to do it. Healthier people dont eat lots of cheesecake, or so they say..... Repeat it as often as you can without feeling like you are going insane or becoming a self help guru. Lets not overload you with more, we can talk about motivation and little psychological tips later, keep it simple. Remember these three simple steps to change a behaviour. Here is an amazing video of BJ talking, he is a funny, intelligent man and its worth a watch. He goes further and talks more about motivation, timing and cues which is important as well.
I highly recommended his book, Tiny Habits as well. The journey is slow, dont give up. Tiny changes lead to big growths. Floss that one tooth, I believe in you!