I have been learning a lot about habit formation lately. It seems like it may be the key for me in putting my self-care and healthy habits front and center. Although, it may not seem to make sense, I am learning that some flexibility is required when creating habits. Let me explain what I mean.
A couple of the habits I am working on are daily meditation and daily physical activity. When it comes to my meditation practice, it has come along pretty easily, this time. Past attempts have not been as successful. I believe this to what I have learned about habit formation.
From my understanding there are 3 main parts to a habit. The trigger, the habit, and the reward. The trigger is the thing that lets your subconscious know it is time to do the habit. The reward is what you get for preforming the habit. When it comes to my meditation habit, my trigger is when I wake up in the morning. I go to my designated meditation space, light my meditation candle (a reward) and mediate for 20 minutes. At the end of my mediation, I track my mediation in my Adidas running app. (Side note: I love this app, it will track all kinds of activities and allows for live tracking as well as manual entries.) Tracking my meditation in the app is my reward. From what I have learned instant rewards are best. If we have to wait too long for a reward our brains won’t associate them with the habit.
So where does flexibility fit in? In order to create a habit you must do it consistently. I can’t say, “I don’t feel well” or “conditions are not perfect”, I have to find a way to get it done. For example: when I travel for work, I do not have my designated space or my candle with me. I have to allow for flexibility in my practice. I meditate with out theses things.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs I am working towards running a 5k. I am using the C25K app from Zenlabs. I love this app! It works great. I prefer to run outside. The fresh air and beautiful scenery are a part of my reward for running. This past week it has been cold and icy. I have severe osteoporosis and can’t afford to slip and fall on the ice. This past week I had to do my running on a treadmill. Running on a treadmill and running outside are not even close to the same experience. I am dedicated to creating a habit of daily activity and training towards the more far off reward of running a 5k again. I have to allow for the flexibility of running inside on a treadmill some days.
Another thing I have learned about habits, is that they are easier when stacked, habit on top on habit. For example: trigger – I wake up, habit – mediation, habit – run or yoga, habit – shower, habit – brush teeth, and then it is time to go to work. By stacking habits I am gaining momentum from things that I am doing anyway. When I choose a hike as my daily activity, I can’t get that done in the morning before work. It has to wait till the workday is done. I can not benefit from my morning habit stack. In this way, I must also allow for flexibility that on the days I am going to hike, it will not happen at the same time as my running or yoga will.
What healthy or self-care activities would you like to add to your life? What existing habits could you stack them onto? Where can you see the need for flexibility and grace in you habit formation? What will you choose as rewards?
Thank you for reading my blog today! May you develop many helpful habits that support you taking care of yourself.
Books to learn more about habit formation:
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Healthy as F*ck by Oonagh Duncan
Hello Habits by Fumio Sasaki