Habits make up a considerable portion of our behaviours, but they often go unnoticed in our daily lives. Research published in Cogent Psychology noted that around half of our everyday behaviour is habitual; we continue to repeat these routines automatically without giving them much thought.
Building new habits is also tricky because when we’re constantly thinking about each action, we slow down. If you want to be committed to forming good habits this year regardless of the challenge, being consistent with every step you take—no matter how small—can be integral to your progress and change you for the better. Here are some ways to help you develop better habits and make sure they stick:
Track your habits
Progress can often seem slow when attempting to form a good habit, which can be discouraging. After all, it takes a lot of time to see the results. To motivate you to stay consistent, a habit tracker can help you measure how often you do your habit while reminding you to continue to act. It visualises your progress, and you’ll be more likely to keep your streak going.
A tracker can be applied to almost any habit and can be especially helpful for weight loss. Science-backed weight loss programs rely on food tracking to drive people toward success. While you don’t have to track everything perfectly, being able to record what you eat on most days of the week can help you stay on course with your goals.
A tracker can also give you insight into your food’s nutrients and compel you to make healthier choices if you notice unhealthy patterns. After you accomplish something successfully, mark it down on your tracker immediately. If you’re consistent with tracking, you’ll feel great satisfaction and pride when you see how far you’ve come.
Be just the right amount of strict
Habits can be tough to form and maintain, usually because there’s no immediate or apparent consequence for dropping them. Behavioural scientist Katy Milkman suggests enforcing a “penalty” to incentivise yourself to stick to your habits and really change your life.
You can tell a friend about your goal; if you don’t do it, your penalty is shame or embarrassment. You can also impose deadlines on yourself with a corresponding consequence for putting them off. Some apps, such as language learning programmes, employ a similar system. Inconsistent participants who miss a day of learning lose their streak and miss out on in-app rewards and perks.
You don’t need to be too strict, however. Allowing yourself some flexibility can give you more leeway in choosing when and where to perform your habit. As long as you find the time to do it daily and keep yourself disciplined, results can show up quicker.
Follow a friend
You don’t have to build a habit on your own. In fact, having external support can be much more effective in the process. Research shows that another person’s behaviour can shape your own, and that can provide motivation to stay persistent. If you’re having trouble forming an exercise habit, social influence on your physical activity can push you to continue working out regularly. Without this influence, you’re more likely to stay sedentary. Find a friend who exercises often and ask for guidance from them; you can do physical activities with each other and hold one another accountable to stay on track together.
Developing new habits can be challenging, but the right amount of discipline and support goes a long way. Having fun with it can also ensure you enjoy the process; when you feel good performing these tasks, you’ll likely want to keep it going.
If you want to see more from The Inspiration Edit, check out our lifestyle tips and tricks for more insights and advice on life.