Name a Time and Place
Habits are your brain’s way to streamline your thinking patterns. In fact, habits are designed so that you don’t have to think much about them at all. Neuroscientists call this “automaticity.”
Perhaps this makes you think of the things you do automatically. Many of the activities you perform throughout your day are habits, even though you probably don’t think of them that way. Your brain is very skilled at developing and refining habits. In fact, the neurons that support your specific habits are already strong and maintain strong connections. When you brew a cup of tea or make up your bed, the neurons and connections related to these activities are so strong, you can complete these tasks almost mindlessly.
By tapping into habits that already exist, it can be easier to make brain-changing habits stick.
Armed with this information, it’s possible to “hack” your existing habits to add a new one. By inserting a new habit into the routine of a pre-existing one, you can tap into your strongly developed neurons so that they can do some of the heavy lifting to make your new behavior a habit.
You’ve probably already decided what new habit you’d like to incorporate into your routine. Now, decide exactly when and where you can integrate your new habit. If you would like to begin a walking routine, and you already have a coffee routine, incorporate the two by stating, “After I drink my cup of coffee, I will get dressed in comfortable clothing, then go for a walk.” If you’re trying to improve your sleep by avoiding screens one hour before bed, and you take a nightly bath, your statement might be, “Before I take a bath, I will set a book on my pillow. When I go to bed, I will pick up the book and not the remote.” By tapping into habits that already exist, it can be easier to make brain-changing habits stick.
- Clear, J. (2014a, August 1). Habit Stacking: How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones. James Clear. https://jamesclear.com/habit-stacking
- VanLehn, K. (1996). COGNITIVE SKILL ACQUISITION. Annual Review of Psychology, 47(1), 513–539. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.47.1.513