Hibernating Habits

Image source: Contributed

As the mercury drops, so does our motivation. Jackie Hillegers encourages us to foster healthy habits over hibernation.

Almost half our daily experiences and behaviours are formed out of habit. We come up with New Year’s resolutions on an annual basis and plan to start these new habits on the first day of the new year. But on the Sunshine Coast, January is often our busiest social month: we’re still winding down from Christmas, the beach is beckoning, and social events and outings are at an all-time high.

In my opinion, the best time to form a new habit is now, at the beginning of winter! It’s the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the dip into cooler weather and decide which of our habits to swap out for new ones. Rather than curling up under a blanket and hibernating, this season calls for trying new things and forming new habits — explore our beautiful surrounds; leave your phone on silent while you take advantage of long slow lunches filled with chatter and laughter; practice self-care at a local day spa; attend a regular pilates class; or engage in regular café catch-ups with freshly brewed coffee, meaningful conversations and eye contact.

Now is the perfect time to support your community and invest in yourself by making these exciting, healthy changes. So, what exactly is a habit, and why is it so hard to change? A habit is a fixed way of thinking or behaving that accumulates through repetition of an experience.

Your ongoing habits mainly occur subconsciously, so you may not always be aware that you are repeating them. The good news is that a habit can be changed by being more consciously aware of the thought pattern that you wish to change. The three main components of a habit – or a habit loop – are the cue, the routine and the reward.

The cue refers to the trigger that starts your habitual behaviour; the routine is the repetitiveness; and the reward is the positive feeling you get each time you repeat your habit. An example of a habit loop is when you binge-watch Netflix and the current episode finishes (cue), you run to the kitchen cupboard or pantry (routine) and grab comfort food to eat before the next episode (reward).

We must recognise the cues and rewards to change or modify our habits. A healthier way to achieve that same reward could be limiting your Netflix-watching experience to just one episode per day, and taking a plate of fruit and nuts into the room with you before watching your episode. When you engage in repetitive habits your neural pathways are strengthened, which helps your brain remember the action more easily or automatically for the future.

Our brain is always rewiring itself based on our experiences and actions, so by understanding your habits, you form valuable insights into your behaviours and allow positive changes.Habits range from simple actions such as brushing your teeth, to more complex ones such as procrastinating or smoking. Most of your habits are beneficial to help run our day-to-day lives, but we all have a few that do need changing. Think about your worst habit that you would like to change, and why it is holding you back or not serving you.

You can follow these 6 steps to make your habit-changing process easier:

1.  Identify the habit you want to change

Be clear about why you want to change this habit and think about how it currently impacts your life.

2.  Understand your triggers

Pay attention to what triggers the habit and then develop strategies to avoid or manage those triggers.

3.  Replace your habit with a positive behaviour

For example, if you drink too much coffee during the day, have a large bottle of water at hand so you can quench your thirst with an alternative when needed.

4.  Create a plan

Write down your plan on how to change your habit in small, manageable steps. Create a timeline to hold yourself accountable.

5.  Be consistent

Consistency is the key so stick to your plan, and push through any challenges or obstacles that stand in your way.

6.  Celebrate your success

Celebrate small victories along the way, as this will keep you more focused and motivated. When you have stuck to your new habit for a month, reward yourself with a self-care gift.

Another way of changing your habit is called ‘habit stacking’. This is when you attach a new habit to an existing one. For example, if you go for a walk each morning but also want to do weights, why not purchase ankle or wrist weights to combine the two?

We have all heard the saying ‘we are creatures of habit’. So let’s be a little more unpredictable this winter – after all, seasons change regularly and so should our habits.


NEW HABIT IDEAS:

  • Join the 5am club to increase productivity
  • Start a side-hustle to earn extra income
  • Complete a jigsaw instead of screen time
  • Work on your body strength with regular classes
  • Read a chapter of a book every day
  • Study or learn a new hobby
  • Support a friend and break your habits together

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