How to build a new habit
Following on from part 1 of our habit building series here is the step by step guide to building a new a habit.
A crucial element in the habit building process is for the reaction to a signal to be rewarding.
Rules to building a new habit:
Make the habit effortless - remember we are inherently lazy and look for the easy option
Making the habits and their signals obvious
Make the habit sexy - ok maybe not sexy, but it needs to be appealing
Make sure it's rewarding
MAKE IT EFFORTLESS
MAKING YOUR HABIT THE EASIEST OPTION
By nature we are lazy - it's not just you and me… it's everyone … we like to choose the path of least resistance. We are capable of working hard but we want to save the energy and motivation for these times for things like working out or killing a presentation we have for work… not on resisting the urge for a greasy burger for lunch.
We need to make the habits we want to have as easy as possible.
Set up your environment for the intended habit you wish to have. For example, if you want to have oats for breakfast instead of having a bacon bap on the way to work, make having oats the easier option when you come to breakfast time e.g. the night before put the oats in the pan ready to be made - or even better, make an overnight oats before you go to bed: ‘I will mix oats, protein powder, chia seeds and milk with berries, after I eat dinner, before I go and watch TV’.
This now makes it easy to grab your pot of overnight oats to take with you in the morning, so by the time you leave the house you already have your breakfast with you and buying a bacon bap now means spending money and waiting for it to be ready.
You’ve made your new habit the easier one.
MAKING IT EASY TO DO
If meal prepping on a Sunday night is the habit you wish to build so you have healthy meals for the rest of the week, don’t start with trying to meal prep every meal for every day with gourmet recipes.
Start with a simple fast recipe - as simple as = buy a Bol pot and add chicken.
The next step might be, buy a bol pot and cook chicken to put in it. The rest you can eat for lunch.
We then build to make some veg and chicken and microwave a bag of rice.
Before you know it we are making a chicken curry - curry paste, coconut milk, veg, chicken, cooked rice.
It's easy to make the change from one step to the next but it's hard to go from ordering deliveroo to making a chicken curry from scratch! BABY STEPS - if it's too hard you won’t stick to it.
MAKE IT OBVIOUS
YOUR BRAIN IS A COMPUTER - GIVE IT INSTRUCTIONS
When you set a new habit, you need to consider that your brain needs specific instructions. If you want to ‘be healthier’, this isn’t something your brain understands. But if you decided that to be healthier you would ‘eat 30g of nuts and an apple at 11am’, this, your brain can understand. They need to be very specific - tell your brain what you are going to do and when.
One way we can artificially create a signal for a new habit is by making the signal a habit that already exists. For example, you already get up, get dressed, make the bed, clean your teeth, make a cup of tea, eat a bowl of cereal, pack your bag and leave for work.
If you made your habit ‘eat 30g of nuts and an apple at 11am each day’, then we could make boiling the kettle our signal to put an apple and nuts in our bag. We can sandwich the new habit between making a cup of tea and eating our breakfast.
BACK TO THE ENVIRONMENT
Create an environment full of signals for the habit you are trying to create. Put the apples in a bowl on the counter next to the kettle instead of hidden away in the fridge. This will act as an immediate signal to pack the apple and nuts for work when you boil the kettle to make tea.
MAKE IT SEXY… OR AT LEAST APPEALING
Ok maybe you wouldn't class eating an apple or drinking water as sexy but we want the new habits we are trying to build to at least be desirable.
How to increase our desire to do our new habit:
To make the new habits more appealing we can pair it with a something that you already like to do or want to do… e.g. escape from your desk. So to eat your apple and nuts at 11am or to drink more water, you can create a scenario of leaving your desk for a couple of minutes to have this as away from desk time which is rewarding, therefore you will want to repeat the habit because you feel rewarded. This is a strong reinforcement for people continuing to smoke, it gives an opportunity to escape from work, which is rewarding in itself and the smoking becomes the thing they crave to produce that feeling of reward.
FIND YOUR PEOPLE
We are fish - it's hard not just to swim against the current of the well ingrained habits we have already formed, but it's even harder to swim the opposite direction to all your friends. Habits are more likely to stick if you surround yourself with people who consider the habits you’re trying to build as normal…. Any sports club, especially CrossFit,1 is the perfect example of that… coming in for a 5:30am class to work on handstands would be rewarded by anyone here at the gym… but outside the gym, most would look at you like you had two heads and try to make you sleep until 7am so you don’t wake them up in the morning. The same goes for food. Changing as a family, as a household or joining a community (like CrossFit) where people consider meal prepping or eating veg at every meal the normal will massively up your chances of success of making habits stick.
MAKING HABITS REWARDING
This is the main reason we have habits to begin with. Looking fab for our wedding may be the ultimate reward but our brain needs rewards or punishments to be instant to have any kind of real effect.
So we need to create a reward for carrying out our habits. Some will come with their own rewards e.g. if cooking a fresh tasty meal for you and your partner was the habit, then the reward is often getting to eat a tasty meal and being thanked by your partner or family is reward enough. Other habits may need a little helping hand.
For example, if you want to meal prep your breakfast instead of buying a bacon bap then create an instant reward by putting the money you would have spent each morning you don't buy your breakfast into a jar - you can physically and immediately see the reward.
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: CAPTURING DECISIVE MOMENTS
It's easy to be motivated to make one decision but it's hard to stay motivated to make hundreds of decisions a day in line with our goals. So lets pick decisive moments to use that motivation which will make future decisions to follow through with our habits inevitable.
For example: There is a decisive moment between you having a fresh evening meal with leftovers saved for lunch the next day and ordering deliveroo.
This may be the moment you come through your front door if you either go straight into the kitchen, or go to the living-room. I.e. ‘when I come in the door if I go straight into the kitchen and start prepping I will make a fresh dinner and save portions to keep on plan the next few days, but if I go straight in and sit on the sofa - I’ll end up ordering deliveroo’.
It's only the decision to go into the kitchen or to sit on the sofa you really need to make, the rest will follow as we slowly build habits. To make cooking ‘sexier’ you can employ the temptation bundling we talked about: put on your favourite music or get your laptop and watch a show in the background whilst you cook.
Doing something you have to do (meal prep) with something you wanted to do anyway (watch TV or listen to music).
Putting your nutrition plan into practice
Providing you with a nutrition plan is all about providing you with a structure and a pathway to get to your goals. We want you to evaluate your routines to find the sticking points so we can ensure you are building habits that stick. For example -
We want to identify WHY we ignored the alarm. Maybe you didn't have anything with you, you didn't prep your food, you were too busy at work to eat etc.
These are the details that we need to iron out. There is always an answer as to why the routine doesn't work and this is when we can implement our habit building or breaking strategies to help you get to the reward phase to make your new routines stick.
Accountability and support is a crucial area of this! And this is where we can help.
A huge part of our nutrition coaching and courses are based on habit building. This is why we use our app to deliver DAILY content and check ins.
Working with us, opposed to doing it yourself, allows you to build habits that last. We have just released the next intake for our 6 week programs!
Next intake just released for our 6 week online programs.
Early bird discount available!