How to develop new habits

The word “habit” is defined as an acquired behavior pattern that is followed regularly until it becomes almost involuntary. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a thing that you often do and almost without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop doing”. Throughout our life, we develop many of them. Some good, some bad. And the sum of them is what basically makes our life. That is why, we humans, are known as “creatures of habit”. We get comfortable doing the same things every day and making a change and stepping out of our comfort zone can be quite a challenge. We are so used to the everyday similarities, things whose outcomes we can predict. Hence, whenever we think of making a change about ourselves we get insecure because we don’t know what’s expecting us afterward. And we won’t know if we choose not to make the change.

Make a decision

The first thing you have to do when want to develop a new habit is to make a decision. You have to decide what it is that you want to change, why you want to change it, and what you have to do to make the change.

We perform most of our daily habits unconsciously. Thus, the first step in changing your habits would be to become aware of them, identify the one that you want to change, and seek the reason behind the change. Once you identify the behavior you want to transform discover the things that you have to do to make the transformation and make a plan. In the plan include all the actions that you have to take that will help you form the new habit, and make sure that those actions are so simple that you cannot simplify them anymore. Because the simpler the action the easier it will be for you to perform it and get used to it. Make it so simple that you won’t be able to say that you cannot do it.

Take action

Developing a certain habit depends on the decisions we make. Every habit we have is based on all the small decisions that we make about it. But developing a new habit goes beyond the decision that we make. It also requires action. As someone once said: “The spoken word has the same value as the one carved into stone if it’s not turned into action”. Therefore, developing a new habit requires putting the words into practice.

Notes and reminders on stickers

So now that you identified what it is about yourself that you want to change and what actions you want to take in order to make that change, it is time to put your plan into practice. The one thing that you don’t want to do is take all those small actions that are part of your plan and do them at the same time. Start step-by-step and focus on the small actions, instead of the main goal. Pick the one you think will be the easiest to implement and start incorporating it into your everyday activities. To make it easier, pick a trigger, something that will remind you of your new activity. Connect your new behavior with something that you do on a daily basis. This will create new pathways in the brain and will associate the new activity with another that is already part of your habits and in no time you’ll start performing the new activity automatically. This means that the new activity has become part of your daily habits, and now it is time to put into action another small activity from your plan. And so on until you fully incorporate the behavior that you wanted into your daily routine.

Continue doing it

When you’ll start making a change in your life you will find yourself in some tempting situations when you’ll want to stop doing the new activity and go back to your old habits. You’ll find yourself in a situation where you’ll have to fight with your own self about whether to perform the new activity. But don’t let those thoughts in your head full you. Continue doing the new activity and don’t break the chain, because once you do that you are going to have to start from the beginning. Whenever you feel tempted to remind yourself why you started in the first place and every time you perform a new activity reward yourself and celebrate it. Tell yourself how proud you are of yourself for doing it and cherish that moment. Next time you feel like quitting, remember that feeling of happiness you had the last time you did the activity. This will encourage you to continue performing the new activity until the new neuro pathways in the brain are formed, and the new action has developed into a new habit.

Going through these phases when you’ll want to develop a new habit and make a change in your life will make the process easier for you. If you practice the behavior you want to implement in your daily habits long enough and consistently, it will eventually become part of your habits. You just have to be patient. And when it does, you won’t put a lot of effort into performing it anymore.

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