None of us are perfect. But give yourself some credit--you probably have at least a few good habits kicking around in your daily routine. And if that's the case, you can use those habits in a few different ways to grow even more.

1. Link "I should" with "I do".

The brain is a cool cucumber in that, while it will make some associations without you consciously deciding for it to, you also deliberately can teach it to link different concepts. For example, if you drive, then you've learned to associate the colors red, yellow and green with  stop, caution and go.

Because your brain has this capacity, you can take something you enjoy and already do (say, sipping that life-giving morning elixir known as coffee) and pair it with something you want to do that's not a regular habit (for example, making your bed). Because drinking that coffee already is easy and gives you pleasure, if you pull up your sheets in between sips, you teach your brain not only that making the bed happens around coffee time, but that making the bed is a positive experience like the coffee is, too.

Additionally, remember that most people enjoy some degree of familiarity. It's comforting. By pairing a familiar experience with something you don't do, the behavior you want to develop doesn't seem so threatening, scary or overwhelming. You can prove to yourself that you don't have to totally disrupt your life to work in some good changes.

2. Make a reasonable swap.

Let's say you always have eggs on white toast for breakfast, grabbing a handful of dried fruit for good measure during your commute. Not too shabby! But to make that breakfast killer, you can swap the eggs for egg whites, the white toast for whole wheat, and the dried fruit for fresh. You've reduced the calorie content of the breakfast while improving the nutritional profile, all while upping the water and fiber amounts to keep you feeling full. Way better!

The deal here is that you take a good habit like eating your breakfast and see where you can improve. You don't really have to change your routine at all, but you make a conscious choice to get the most out of what you already do.

3. Put a good habit into a different script.

Our day is full of scripts, from saying hello to colleagues in the hallway to the way you open your computer programs once you log in. Sometimes, the script can include a good habit intertwined with something that's not so great, such as eating a great, healthy lunch...but always spending a ton for it at the cafeteria and noshing it at your desk.

Here, you don't want to change eating the healthy lunch--once again, let what you're already doing right anchor you. You do want to see the patterns in your life, challenge the way those patterns have to look, and make a conscious choice to eliminate elements in those patterns that aren't doing you favors. You can rewrite your behavior script here, for example, by bringing your lunch from home and going outside to eat it in the park down the street. And tricks like using an app to lock your computer during lunch or finding someone to have lunch with can help you move your good habit into a better framework.

Published on: Sep 16, 2019
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