Making habits stick when life returns to normal

man running along long straight gravel path with grass either side

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Making habits stick once you’re back in the “real world”.

So, you’ve read our post on building new habits in a time of crisis (in this case, the Coronavirus epidemic). It’s all well and good sticking to them when you’re in your own little isolation bubble. But how do you take those new behaviours with you once your life goes back to “normal”? Follow these tips and tricks to help make your new habits stick.

making habits stick pinterest pin

 

Associations

One of the simplest ways to make habits stick is by “anchoring” them to an old habit. This means forming an association between an existing habit, and something you want to become one. If you want to continue your new routine of stretching every day, do it at the same time as brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil. Once your brain associates one action with the other, it will become an established new habit. Hooray!

lady in green t shirt brushing teeth in mirror

 

Context

This technique starts now, before you go back to commuting or whatever your usual day looks like. To create a habit that becomes automatic, it’s important to make sure the context of that behaviour is something your brain can continue to associate long term. This means ensuring that you are carrying out the activity at a time and in a place that you can continue with in the future. So don’t start exercising at 11 am in your living room if that’s the usual time you’re in a conference room with 15 people. Instead, try to place your activities at times when you would usually be at home.

Rewards

As mentioned above, our brains are hard-wired to respond positively to rewards. So think of a (healthy, if possible!) reward that will help motivate you to continue your habit. An episode of your favourite series after you’ve completed your chosen task becomes the reward rather than the habit itself!

 

Keep them small

One of the best ways to build new habits that stick is to keep your goals small and achievable. So if you have never grown your own food before, don’t immediately commit to being totally self-sufficient. Start with some radishes and build up! Micro-habits (a small part of a bigger task) make the end goal much more achievable. If you overwhelm yourself, you’re much more likely to give up.

Also, if you make the goal too big and you cannot achieve it one day, you have a negative reaction. Shame and guilt are not good motivators! So make it possible to achieve your habit even on days you are ill, or away from home. That way you continue to get the reward of achievement. If you manage more on one day, its a bonus.

Making habits stick using implementation intention

So how do you set and keep to your new habits? A great technique is by saying or writing down an implementation intention, otherwise known as a “when…then” statement. For instance, “when I brush my teeth, I will do 20 squats” or “when I have my morning cup of tea, I will take my multivitamin” would be good ones. These simple phrases will become little mantras for making your new habits stick.

person writing in notepad with coffee and books on table

 

Your plans to make your new habits stick

We’d love to hear about your own habit-building and how you’re planning on taking your lockdown lessons and routines back into your normal, day-to-day life. Please leave us a comment below or send us a message on Instagram or Facebook to tell us about your goals and what your “when….then” statements are. We’ll update you in a few months’ time to see how many of all of our new habits are still with us!

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4 thoughts on “Making habits stick when life returns to normal”

  1. Pingback: Building good habits in a time of crisis - ailuna - Habit Building

  2. Association is a great idea… like saying your prayers before going to sleep, or Putting your wallet in your pocket when you get dressed in the morning… tying a new task to something you do frequently is the key. If I only do my 20 squats before I vote in the election every few years, there is not enough frequency to create a new habit.

    1. Katie Skelton

      Very good point, Keith! Although I’d quite like to see everyone doing squats whilst in line to vote, just for the entertainment value.

  3. 6 weeks of Wicks and counting…might be starting an extra challenge tomorrow with ex-work friends but it involves a LOT of sit ups…

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