In the start of a new year, it is common to write New Year's resolutions to reach new goals and create new habits. Have you ever wondered about seeing the complete list of steps and recommendations from psychologists on how to form new habits? This blog post is exactly about that.
What are habits and how they influence us?
Habits rule our lives, shaping our behaviors, choices, and ultimately, our future. Habits can either directly support or impede the goal. At their core, habits are automatic, learned responses to specific cues or triggers in our environment. If these habits are positive, they help us lead more fulfilling lives. However, in the case of unhelpful habits, our life is often dragged down. All of us, if we take the right steps, are able to change our habits and positively influence our lives.
Steps on how to create a new habit.
1. Be aware of why you want to change your habit. Recognize potential negative consequences of the old habit and possible gains of the new habit. This is essential and one of the most important steps in motivating you to form the new habit.
2. Understand why the old habit was there. How did it form? What function did it serve? This could help in understanding the factors to take into account when changing the old habit and finding alternative, healthier ways to fulfill your needs.
3. Define exactly how the new habit will look (how will you know you succeeded in reaching your goal). Be sure to be reasonable and realistic with your new desired habit in mind, as overly ambitious goals can reduce motivation.
4. Break down your desired habit into manageable steps or chunks. For instance, if your goal is to start exercising for 30 minutes each day, begin with 1-2 minutes initially.
5. Combine your new desired habit with one you already practice regularly. This integration helps in associating the new behavior with an existing routine, making it more likely to stick. For example, you can introduce your new habit at exact times – after work, after dinner or etc.
6. Make steps towards your habit every day, it could be even small little steps. Change is difficult and takes time; working on it every day maximizes the chances that your new habit becomes ingrained in your routine.
Reinforcements of your habit:
7. Place visual reminders of the new goal throughout your home, work, or the car. Also, remind yourself of the positive gains of forming this new habit in these visual reminders.
8. Remove reminders of your old habit. Environmental cues trigger behavioral patterns.
9. Find accountability partners. Accountability partner provide encouragement, and motivation, holding you responsible for your goals and fostering a greater likelihood of success through shared commitment and shared progress.
10. Keep track of your daily progress. Write down every small step you have taken in your notebook. Be sure to praise every step you take, allow yourself to feel proud, and eliminate any harsh tone or self-devaluation when things don't go as planned (instead explore what happened and what can you adjust).
11. Make sure to reward yourself for every positive step you take towards reaching your goal.
Habit maintenance phase:
12. Continue actively working on your goal; even if you've already achieved your new habit, sustaining the new habit still requires active effort. Continue using the steps that worked well!
13. Anticipate potential challenges in maintaining the goal and plan active steps on how you will sustain this new goal. Make sure to view setbacks as new opportunities for growth.
As an expat psychologist based in Netherlands, Veldhoven (Eindhoven), I am here to guide you through every step of the process—whether it involves recognizing the roots of existing habits, boosting your motivation, setting achievable goals, providing ongoing support, building your confidence, navigating setbacks and more. Do not hesitate to explore how our sessions can look like and schedule an appointment.