Start small ... making new habits
'Habits offload cognitive function ...'
… or, in other words, if you make something a habit, it frees up your brain for the more fun stuff!
Another great webinar by Action for Happiness last night, this one with BJ Fogg, Director of the Behaviour Design Lab at Stanford and pioneer of the Tiny Habits method.
As I said in a previous post, trying to enforce change by willpower alone is destined for failure, as the relevant area of the brain tires easily. BJ Fogg agreed that emotions create habits, particularly feelings of success and/or a reduction in negative emotions such as anxiety.
The Tiny Habits method takes something we will be doing anyway, eg ‘every time I put the kettle on,’ and adds an achievable level of the habit we’d like to adopt, eg ‘I’ll think of something I’m grateful for.’ Once you carry out this tiny task, you give yourself a big ‘good for you!’ It reinforces the change and validates your efforts. As Fogg said, set the bar low and keep it there. You’re more likely to do more of it when you’ve started on good days, which is great. But on your hardest days the baseline is very achievable, and you’re still rehearsing the desired behaviour and building a mental ‘muscle memory’ around it – gradually making the new behaviour automatic. If you realise even a Tiny Habit is a challenge, feel free to revise it to something that does work for you – and don’t forget to celebrate when it’s done, every time!
As regards to bad habits we’d like to see the back of, he suggested using the word ‘untangle’ rather than the immediate, irreversible ‘break’. If we look at changing our behaviour as unravelling a mess, tackling the easier knots first, we’re more likely to succeed. And don’t forget that forming new habits is easier than untangling old ones.
To help get you started there’s a fun online Tiny Habits ‘recipe maker’ (https://recipemaker.tinyhabits.com/tiny-habits), and you can find out about his free 5-day programme and the accompanying book on the website tinyhabits.com. I think I’ll give it a go – if you do too, let me know how you get on in the comments! You can also catch the webinar on YouTube: https://youtu.be/UKTtmnPXXtw