Congratulations, you made it through January and all its bleak dreariness. Remember those goals you made at the beginning of the year? Yeah, those ones that you might have conveniently forgotten when it got difficult or you got bored with them? The problem with any goal is that they have to be linked to reality – preferably yours. Today, let’s explore an easier way to make those goals into habits.
If you set a goal because you were inspired by how someone else lives their life – maybe it was to make Instagram-worthy meals for your family, or be that mom who made freshly baked cookies on the weekend – chances are it didn’t really fit into your life as you are currently living it. Adding anything to an already busy life is asking for trouble.
This is where habit stacking can be really helpful. Instead of creating an isolated goal that you feel you need to squeeze in between everything else you’re already doing, habit stacking means linking a new habit to an already existing habit to help reinforce patterns. Someone who wants to start taking walks could stack that activity with a daily activity such as getting the mail. Someone who wants to read more can set out their book at the same time they make their bed so they naturally pick it up at bedtime instead of scrolling on their phone.
How to Do Habit Stacking
The trick to habit stacking is inserting small changes that can add up to big results over time. If you’ve been trying to help your teenager to wash their face at night and they already have a teeth brushing habit, then your reminder to them would be, “Hey, don’t forget to wash your face after brushing your teeth.” This links the two actions together and after a few reminders, chances are they will start remembering on their own.
Be creative and clever. Maybe you really love to watch youtube or Instagram shorts to relax in the evenings, but your goal is to sort through your endless pile of emails that have been stacking up. If you’re watching on a phone, flip back and forth between your video app of choice and your email every few videos and sort through ten messages. During the same amount of time you might have wasted to endless video watching, you could achieve that most mythical of things – inbox zero.
Flossing, The Final Frontier
I’ll admit, I used to be terrible about remembering to floss. At every dental visit, I’d get the same annoying lecture about how I should try to remember at least a few times a week. The problem is, I’m great at remembering things that happen every day and I’m pretty good at remembering things that have set weekdays. But, tell me that every few days I need to do something that I find annoying and I’m going to forget.
However, I’d also like to keep my teeth healthy. So, I finally added flossing to my daily going-to-bed list to do right after brushing my teeth. At first, I hated it. But I wanted to make it a habit, so I found ways to make it less annoying, like getting those handy floss picks so I don’t feel like I have to stick my entire hand in my mouth. I’m proud to say that at my last dentist visit, they didn’t even ask if I flossed. Huzzah!
Discussion Question: What’s a habit you’d like to start?