Why are we surprised when people we know or characters in stories break character? Humans are creatures of habit. Everything we do is always bound to our habits. They can be good or bad, but they will always be hard to change. Why are habits important? How do we start good ones and how do we stop bad ones? What are some good habits to start and bad habits to stop? All this and more coming up.
As mentioned earlier, our lives are dictated by our habits. All our decisions are results of our habits. If you sleep late during the summer, it will be quite hard to start sleeping early when school starts again. If you exercise every day for a few months, you will begin to feel that something is wrong if you skip exercise. Habits can either ensure you keep doing good things or force you to continue doing bad things.
Obviously, when we do something continuously for a long time, we are going to do it a lot. Although this is obvious, it is easy to underestimate how much we can actually accomplish by doing something every day or every week or even every month. The accumulation of results allows us to do things that might be far too daunting to start otherwise.
Additionally, most people function better with routine and consistency. We feel comfortable with these routines, and we will become more efficient and more engrossed in the commitment. However, this efficiency and addiction can be both an aid and a detriment. If we use our habits for productive things, our lives will be greatly benefited, but if our habits are focused on non-beneficial things, it might derail our lives. So this begs the question, how do we build good habits and stop bad ones?
The first step is to realize that changing habits takes a long time and a lot of commitment. Phillippa Lally, PhD, a senior researcher at University College London, published a study revealing that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. Furthermore, it can take anywhere between 18 to 254 days before it will start to feel automatic. The amount of time taken also seemed to increase with the complexity of the habit.
The second step is to identify what habits you want to start and what habits you want to stop. Take note of what you value and what you want to do on a consistent basis. This might be something like exercising, reading, or cooking. Additionally, as you go through your day, take note of what you wish to stop doing. This might be something like checking notifications, watching videos, or eating unhealthy snacks.
The third step is to employ the 20 second rule.
Essentially, try to make good habits 20 seconds easier to start, and bad ones 20 seconds harder to start.
An impulse will last approximately 20 seconds, so by making good habits 20 seconds easier to start, you are much more likely to actually do the task when you feel motivated to do it. Similarly, by making bad habits 20 seconds harder to start, your impulse to indulge in them will dissipate before you can even start.
Here are a few examples of how to employ this idea:
If you want to start reading more, you might want to create a list of things you would like to start reading through, find a physical copy of whatever you want to read, and place that physical copy on your desk next to your phone or computer.
If you want to stop checking messages or emails unnecessarily, perhaps you could turn off the notifications, leave the device in another room or even on another floor, log out of your account after every session, and change your password to something incredibly long and annoying to input.
Sometimes, it isn’t so clear how to make something easier to start or harder to stop. For example, if you want to start sleeping earlier, there isn’t much you can do to make the bed easier to get to. In cases like these, look for something preventing you from starting the habit. What is causing you to sleep later? Are you procrastinating so you have no time left for work? The most important thing is to always put conscious effort into maintaining your habit because it is not easy.
In addition to any habits you are already trying to implement, here are a few very simple yet beneficial habits. As always, evaluate your specific life situation as you consider each idea.
Make your bed after you wake up
It will leave you feeling as if you have already done something that day. This little accomplishment can go a long way for your mental state throughout the day.
Leave a light dumbbell near you and exercise with it while you work
Exercise is really good for your physical and mental state. By having something to help you exercise readily available, you are much more likely to gain the benefits of exercise.
Physically write down at least one thing you are grateful for every morning
We often take things for granted. By appreciating something we have in our lives, we get into a mindset of positivity and appreciation (learn more about appreciating the mundane things in life here).
Detrimental habits are even harder to generalize because some people may benefit from the same things that will harm others. Always consider and adapt these ideas to your life and lifestyle.