So far, we have looked at lists of three or five useful tips, provided by helpful professionals, for establishing solid positive habits. This time, there are seven pieces of advice, courtesy of MasterClass. The introductory paragraph brings up two topics very worthy of discussion:
Habits aren’t always consciously formed — they can develop when you are operating on autopilot. For example, you might want a glass of wine after a particularly stressful day. At first, it’s just the stressful days that make you crave a glass of wine, but after a while, you have a glass of wine every time you get home from work, even on good days. You’ve formed a new habit without even realizing it.
The first sentence embodies a real paradox. Yes, a bad habit can certainly form “when you are operating on autopilot.” But as we have seen, to set a behavior on auto-pilot is also exactly what we strive to do — when it is a positive, beneficial, constructive behavior. For instance, a person might have an invincible habit of locking the door as soon as they have entered their house, apartment, or room.
For this person, locking up without expending conscious mental energy has become the default behavior, and it is a useful one. Ideally, all good intentions would be buttressed with such sturdy reinforcement. When the doctor says, “Take this pill every day,” we want it to become second nature. Making that happen is what these suggestions for good habit-formation mojo intend to empower.
A two-faced benefactor
Regarding the problem of patient non-compliance, Gérard Reach pointed out how helpful it is when a patient can be spared the cognitive effort of following a doctor’s orders every day. Hopefully, they will figure out how to automate the task. A solution might be, to keep the pill bottle on top of the denture container, which tethers the pill-swallowing to the absolutely necessary task of toothing up.
As Prof. Reach would say, “[T]he person doesn’t have to think about it.” So the auto-pilot tendency is definitely a double-edged sword. Because, as that quoted paragraph suggests, one of life’s strange mysteries is the astonishing speed with which a bad habit can materialize, compared to the much more leisurely pace set by good habit formation.
The MasterClass 7
These are, in brief, the seven habit-builders suggested by (and explained in much greater detail by) the MasterClass article.
1.”Write down your goals” — Exactly which bad habits do you want to drop, and which good ones will you cultivate? (A person might, like a detective in a movie, stick notes up all over the place.) It’s all about intention.
2. “Avoid triggers.” A trigger might be a person, a place, an activity, a scent, a song… and all must be assiduously avoided.
3. “Identify the root cause of your habits.” Again, the conscious mind is called upon to take an active part.
4. “Focus on making small changes.” Or, as many counselors choose to phrase this concept, take “baby steps,” like, for instance, a five-minute walk every day. The dailiness means more than the distance covered. The important part is to keep at it until the habit is so ingrained, it’s just part of life.
5. “Establish a daily routine.” Again, it’s all about consistency.
6. “Measure your progress.” Journal-keeping is recommended, and so is the use of a habit-tracking app.
7. “Find an accountability partner.” It is always good to have a friend along for the ride, and even better to have a group of like-minded seekers.
For more about goals, triggers, root causes, small changes, daily routines, progress measurement, and friends who share your commitment, please have a look at the BrainWeighve App User Manual.
Source: “How to Build a Habit: 7 Tips for Building Good Habits,” MasterClass.com. 08/02/22
Image by OKF Open Science/CC BY-SA 2.0