At the beginning of this month, I announced I was going to create a new habit in my life:
Read for half an hour daily
I am happy to say that not only did I carry out my new habit every single day, I am also confident that reading daily is something I want to continue doing from now on. In fact, I even got myself a library card.
I would like to use my happy habits feature to share some advice on how to successfully introduce new habits into your life. Hopefully I can share new tips and tricks as I try out different habits and develop my skills in this area. This month, I will limit my tips to 3 lessons I learned on how to successfully create a new, creative, happy habit.
Tip #1: Replace an old habit with a new one
Replacing an old behaviour with a new behaviour is a relatively simple way to form a new habit. Here is what my old habit looked like. The alarm clock would go off. I would get out of bed, make my breakfast, take my laptop, and crawl back into bed. There I would check my email, read blogs, view the news, and browse the Internet until I realized how late it was and get dressed and start working. I wanted to replace this habit for two reasons.
First of all, using a laptop in bed is a terrible thing to do for your posture. I wanted to only use my laptop at my desk from now on. Secondly, I didn’t like the idea of starting my day passively responding to whatever external (usually unimportant) things came my way. So I simply decided to replace my laptop with a book.
If you want to break a habit, but don’t replace it with a new habit, you’ll be very likely to fall back into your old patterns. If I had just told myself to stop using my laptop in bed, I would have been awfully confronted with the feeling that ‘something was missing’.
If you want to form a time-consuming new habit, but don’t cut back on time elsewhere, you’ll simply not have enough time for our new habit. If I had told myself to magically create another 30 minutes in my day, next to all my daily habits, I wouldn’t read often. That’s because I would always feel like I didn’t have the time.
So pick a habit you’re not happy about, and replace it with a happier habit.
Tip #2: Use something you do every single day as a trigger
It’s much easier to form a habit when you have a reoccurring cue that you can use to start the desired behaviour. Look for things that you do every day, like eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, doing the dishes, drinking coffee or reading the newspaper. Per person these triggers might vary. But we all have consistent behaviours we perform (almost) every single day.
I consciously planned my reading habit while eating my breakfast, because I know I need to make time for eating anyway. Breakfast is my most consistent meal of the day, compared to for example irregular dinners together with Joran, roommates or others. It’s easy to combine an activity like eating with an activity like reading. So now, whenever I take my breakfast out of the kitchen, I automatically take out my book and start reading.
Look for everyday habits you already have. Use them as a cue and connect your new habit to one of them.
Top #3: Add an element that makes you feel excited.
Once you’ve gotten used to your new habit, you can start to tweak it. Look for ways to actively enforce your new habit, by making it into something you start looking forward to.
For example, I moved my reading habit from my bed to my golden chair. Actually one of the reasons I bought my golden chair, besides the fact that it is utterly awesome, was the thought of slowly waking up in it. I had this vision of sitting in it with a cup of coffee in the morning, near the window with lots of daylight. I also picked up a beautiful crochet blanket while I was in Bali, which I wrap around me while I read. It makes me feel less chilly in my pajamas during the early morning and less likely to want to crawl back into bed.
Silly as it may sound, my golden chair and crochet blanket have become my armor in defending my new habit. These days, I feel perfectly happy when I crawl into my golden chair under my colourful blanket. The first rays of daylight wake me up and I start reading about inspiring new ideas first thing in the morning. I could still read a book on my couch, but it wouldn’t give me the same special sensation. The complete experience makes me so happy that these days it’s harder to stop reading than to start reading. I would call that a successful introduction of a new habit. (Also, I promise to show you my golden chair in its natural habitat soon, just like the rest of my room. I have a room tour coming up next week.)
Look for special elements that make you feel excited about your new habit. Introduce them into your routine and shift your feelings to happy, positive vibes.
Do you ever actively try to establish a new habit? What helps you to do this?
July 30, 2015 at 17:16
I’ve been feeling a little on the fence when it comes to my opinion on intentionally starting habits, lately. Like, for all of July, Moth and I made it a habit to go on a bike ride every single morning before breakfast, and as much as we loved it most of the time, it did start to feel like a chore. Now it’s finally gotten to the point where we hardly go anymore. But now we go on bike rides when we feel like it, and we love them just as much as before. The only thing is I feel guilty about breaking the habit–but I certainly don’t want to keep up a habit that’s boring me! I don’t know, maybe a spontaneous, go-with-the-flow “schedule” is more alluring to some people like myself! Anyhow, I’m really happy for you that you’ve taken up reading as a happy habit and have been doing so well. Props to you because I know how hard habits are to start! That golden chair and crochet blanket sound like a comfy cozy reason to keep it up. :)
July 30, 2015 at 17:23
I understand, and habits that feel like chores is not what I want to promote. It’s often when you ‘must’ do something, that they lose the fun. And when that happens, I think it’s way better, like you say, to use a go-with-the-flow schedule. And then there is no need to feel guilty. It’s actually the reason why I want to try out a habit only for one month, and then decide to either move on or keep the habit. But for this one, I still really enjoy my morning reading time and I feel it’s a huge improvement to my old habit. I have noticed that the topic of the book matters in if I experience it as a chore or not. So now I’ve started mixing up my ‘must reads’ with ‘just for fun reads’ and that’s helping a lot to keep things happy and interesting. Maybe I should have mentioned that as well in the tips, because it’s a very good point that you make. Thanks for the input!
July 30, 2015 at 21:51
I try and read everyday for at least 30 minutes, but breaking bad habits is harder for me. Working on it though…
July 30, 2015 at 22:03
That’s great that you’re already doing that! It took me some careful planning. And yes, breaking bad habits is definitely hard. I still have a lot to tackle ;) But you need to start somewhere right?
July 31, 2015 at 14:00
I liked! Especially the trick of replacing a bad habit with a good one . For some time I have wanted to quit smoking. The problem with this very bad habit is the association with other good things I do : reading, watching movies , drinking coffee , eating, browse the internet, meetings with friends, writing. All these things usually do them at night, when I’m not working and love to do this things. And think of doing any of these activities without a cigarette is something unthinkable . As if all the rest lost sense if you can not smoke. It is terrible! I thought that the only way to stop smoking at night is going to the gym and do some sports . I am a member of a fitness club located two blocks from my house. It is easy. But I can not find the will to go to the club , because I realized that the sport is not something I really enjoy. It’s more like an obligation. But I do not give up. Now I just read this post, I ‘m thinking that there are many interesting ways to deal with a bad habit. Maybe my problem is that I really have not tried seriously .
Thanks and regards from Uruguay! :)
July 31, 2015 at 14:48
I think it’s awesome that you willing to try to live more healthy. Habits can be really tricky and hard though, especially like you say when something that’s bad for is is connected to so many happy things. I hope you find a way that works for you. And don’t give up. These things are difficult and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself :)
August 1, 2015 at 15:10
Fijn dat je eerste nieuwe gewoonte je zo goed bevalt! Het doet me zelfs een beetje denken aan de ‘miracle morning’.
‘s Ochtends lezen gaat me niet zo goed af omdat ik zo obsessief kan lezen dat ik al het andere (verplichte) werk dan durf laten liggen. Maar ‘s avonds is lezen voor mij het ideale ‘afschakel’-moment voor het slapen gaan!
Dat in bed lummelen met de laptop/gsm ken ik helaas ook… Tijdens het acdemiejaar huur ik een kamertje waar geen wifi is, maar thuis is het zo verleidelijk om ‘s morgens naar die verrekte gsm te grijpen. Ik ga je tips gebruiken om een betere manier te vinden om in het weekend stilletjes aan wakker te worden!
Oh, ik ben weer veel te veel aan het typen, maar jij schrijft altijd posts die mij aan het denken en doen zetten, dus ik vrees dat je nog wel wat te lezen hebt ;)
Ik had een paar maanden geleden een complete avondroutine waar ik me redelijk goed aan hield. Ik had namelijk de slechte gewoonte om vrij (en vaak zelfs te) laat voor mijn studie te werken. Met als gevolg dat ik de volgende ochtend nog veel te slaperig was en het meeste werk opnieuw uitstelde naar ‘s middags en ‘s avonds. Enfin, ik maakte voor mezelf uit dat ik ten laatste om 21u stopte met werken en daarna deed ik stretchoefeningen, schreef ik een blaadje in mijn dagboek en tenslotte las ik tot 22 à 22.30u. Klinkt heel saai voor een student, maar het heeft mij van mijn slaaptekort afgeholpen en mijn levneskwaliteit een enorme boost gegeven :) Tijdens de vakantie is dit een beetje stilgevallen, maar nu ik deze maand voor mijn herexamens moet studeren, ga ik mijn avondroutine zeker weer oppikken.
Ik ben heel benieuwd naar je happy habit voor augustus!
August 1, 2015 at 15:13
PS: Die gedachte van onder een dekentje in een gouden stoel te lezen is zó geweldig dat ik er nu zelf eentje wil hebben :D
August 6, 2015 at 09:22
Ik heb net de foto’s van mijn kamer online gezien, dan zul je extra snappen waarom ik zo geniet ;)
August 6, 2015 at 09:22
Wat is de miracle morning? ‘s avonds lezen klinkt inderdaad ook als een perfect moment. Bij mij werkt dit vaak niet zo goed omdat ik heel veel moeite heb met op tijd in bed liggen, en als ik dat al doe het te laat is om nog te gaan lezen. Het belangrijkste is dat het voor jou (of mij) werkt, welk moment dat dan ook is. Ook dat laat werken klinkt wel herkenbaar. ik probeer me de laatste tijd te forceren om niet ‘s avonds laat nog mijn email te controleren, maar ik betrap mijzelf er regelmatig op dat ik dit toch nog doe (oeps). Dus zo’n routine kan ik ook wel gebruiken!