Forming Good Habits
In our last blog, we spoke about habit formation and the important role our environment plays in conditioning repeated behaviours. Just as these ‘habit loops’ (patterns of Trigger, Behaviour, Reward) can be instigated by spatial or situational cues, they can also be brought on by our temporal rhythm – the daily routine that governs our life.
Whether we are working at home or commuting to an office, the way our time is structured can have profound implications for the habits we manifest. This might involve something simple; having to wait twenty minutes for a connecting train can make us more likely to grab a bacon sandwich from the station every morning. Beyond this, however, our entire day can come to take on a habitual pattern when our rigid schedules remain unchanged. Over time, we might find our energy levels dropping and our motivation decreasing as we struggle to break out of these patterns.
Luckily however, rigid routines also provide a fantastic opportunity to promote new habit formation – habits that we actively wish to engage in. Eating more fruit, exercising before or after work, going for a walk before dinner; whatever small change we want to make becomes easier to achieve when we have a coherent structure to build it into.
By looking for patterns in our day we can find openings in which to try out these new behaviours. Once we’ve identified these areas, though, the key is making it easy for ourselves. Simple things like going to bed in our gym clothes will make us more likely to exercise first thing in the morning – just as packing a healthy breakfast the night before will make it easier to skip the train station sandwich. Waiting for your morning coffee to brew? Try a small, 1-minute meditation instead of scrolling through social media.
According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, small changes sustained over a long period of time will eventually become second nature to us. As ever, what’s crucial is to be active and choiceful in our day-to-day lives, making the rhythms and structures that contain our existence work for us rather than against us. Before we know it, our day can look remarkably different as we fill in the empty moments with activities and behaviours that fulfil us and make us whole.
Often the changes we can make will only be small. Thankfully however, that’s all they need to be.