If you haven’t made it a habit to check these weekly habit posts, whatareyou doing?! (cue the joke drum). If you don’t remember, or if you’re just joining me on my blog space then let me bring you up to speed:
I’ve started talking more in depth about habits: how they shape us and our future, and how you can create habits that will actually last.
In order for a habit to really stick, it needs to check three very important boxes:
- The habit must be simple
- The habit must be enjoyable (which is what this post is about)
- The habit must be in line with who you’re wanting to become (we’ll talk about this next time)
How to Create Enjoyable Habits
Emotions create habits. Always. Think about it. Aren’t you more likely to continue to do something when you feel happy, positive, or even rewarded for doing that thing? Just like you’re less likely to continue to do something that makes you feel like crap?
To get a habit to stick, you have to start associating positive reinforcement with the habit. This makes me chuckle, and please don’t take offense, but we’re currently practicing this with our newest puppy, Tucker. We want him to go outside to potty, right? Because going potty on our carpet isn’t desirable. Makes sense. So, every time we take him outside and he goes potty, we immediately tell him “good boy!” and give him a treat. When he goes potty in the house, he doesn’t get rewarded with a treat or verbal praise. Instead, we tell him “no!” or let him know that his behavior isn’t good. Over time, he’s going to associate that habit (going potty outside) with a positive emotion (being praised and getting a reward).
Humans are no different. At the end of the day, we all just want to feel recognized about what we’re doing. We want that praise and we want that treat after we go potty – whatever our potty may be. And when we get that praise, we’re going to be more likely to keep doing those things that give us that feeling of positivity and accomplishment, just like we’re going to be less likely to continue the habit of peeing and pooping on the carpet because our humans make us feel a little bad for it. Maybe a gross comparison but you get the idea.
B.J. Fogg, PhD, the creator of Tiny Habits, talks about the act of giving yourself instant praise being essential in developing and sticking with new habits. INSTANT praise when you complete the habit you’re trying to adopt. Not waiting and thinking about it later, but doing it right then right in that moment. He talks about creating such small, simple habits (ahem, read this post if you need a refresher), and then immediately offering yourself praise for completing that task. It can be as simple as flossing your teeth (his big breakthrough with Tiny Habits). As soon as you’re done flossing, tell yourself that you are the BEST flosser in the world. You are a rockstar, your teeth are beautiful. You did a job well done. Way to go, you. Keep up the good work.
And you repeat. You do that every time you complete that task. Or you give yourself a little reward. You put on those running shoes today so you get an extra five minutes to soak in your relaxing bubble bath tonight. No running shoes? No extra five minutes for you.
I’m sure the gentleman who only allowed himself 5 minutes in the gym everyday gave himself praise as he walked back to his car after his short sweat session (again – refresh your memory here). If instead, he would have told himself “Seriously? Five minutes, bro? What a joke.” – then the chances of him sticking to that routine would have been so small that he wouldn’t have gone back. And he wouldn’t have increased his time. And he wouldn’t have lost his 100 pounds. He’d still be sitting on his couch wishing he knew how to make a change, and committing to starting over again next week. Again.
To create a habit that sticks, you have to make it enjoyable. And you have to feel good about it once you’ve done it (which is kind of what enjoyable means). Maybe you want to start “exercising more” but you hate running. DON’T try and adopt the habit of running, then, because that makes zero sense. Instead, find something about exercise that you love. Maybe you really enjoy going for a walk every night with your family. Great! Make that a nightly habit. Before you know it, you’ll be walking further, logging more steps, getting more miles, and just like that – your’e exercising more. Because you found something you enjoyed, which made you 10x more likely to stick with it.
Here’s your homework for this week:
- Write down your short term and long term goals
- Break those goals down into little steps or habits that you could adopt that would help you reach your goal
- Brainstorm ways to make those habits enjoyable, or – replace those habits with similar ones that are more enjoyable for you (like the example above, if you hate running, don’t create a habit around it).
Natasha Funderburk is a wife, #boymom, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Consultant, and ACE-Behavior Change Specialist. When not watching her son play baseball, she can be found on various writing platforms, coaching her clients to live their best lives, drinking all the coffee, and conducting living-room dance parties.