Do you struggle forming new habits and routines? Do you lack the time and energy to start a new treatment, graded exercise program and make positive lifestyle changes? Below are 3 tips to make creating and sticking to habits and routines easy, including how habit stacking and habits attachment can help.
Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only. I’m not a qualified practitioner and I’m not encouraging anyone else to do them. Please consult a qualified practitioner before implementing these things or changing your current treatment plan. This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you I will earn commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. See my full disclaimer here.
All of us, especially at the start of the year, set intentions of healthy habits to adopt and things we’d like to get into the routine of doing consistently. New year, new me. New year new habits routines and goals.
So we make a list of intentions and good habits to start in the new year. Examples of intentions may include:-
- Starting a new stretching or exercise routine,
- Go to bed by 10pm,
- Get fresh air everyday,
- Read one book a month.
difficulty sticking to habits and routines
However, when our time and energy available is limited, it can be difficult trying to fit it all in and get into the habit of implementing them consistently. Research shows after a month 55% of us fail to stick to them (1).
Which poses the questions:-
- How many days does it take to form a habit?
- How can we build new habits and routines that everyone, regardless of time and energy constraints, other commitments and illness, can stick to consistently and do automatically in the long term?
How long does it take to form a habit?
There’s the 21 day habit theory, where it’s commonly said that it takes 21 days to form a habit. However, research shows that on average it takes 66 days to form a habit, where it becomes something we do automatically. However, as books like Atomic Habits by James Clear states (UK Link/US Link), the number of days to form a habit can vary anywhere from 18 to 254 days.
Creating new habits and routines take time. Below are 3 tips which help me easily build new routines and make a habit of implementing positive lifestyle choices consistently.
How to create lasting habits and routines
Tip 1). Habit Stacking
We’re constantly overloaded with positive lifestyle habits to adopt and ways to improve our health and manage chronic illness:-
- Scheduling 7 types of rest,
- Supporting our drainage pathways,
- Switching to toxin free living,
- Daily movement,
- Visualisations etc.
When our time and energy available is limited, it can be overwhelming and impossible trying to fit it all in and implementing them all consistently to receive the benefits.
What is habit stacking and how can it help?
Habit stacking involves you combining multiple habits that can be done at the same time to allow you to receive the benefits of them all in the same amount of time it takes to perform just one of them.
Habit Stacking Examples
Here are two habit stacking ideas. In the first photo the habit stack involves:-
- Fresh air,
- Stretching and
In the next habit stack below I’ve combined:-
- Epsom salt bath,
- Sensory rest,
- Diffusing essential oils.
Tip 2). Attach new habit to an existing daily habit
There are numerous habits we already do everyday without thinking about, such as:-
- Switching off our alarm in the morning,
- Brushing our teeth and,
- Boiling the kettle.
To help make new habits easy to stick to, the book Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg (UK Link/US Link) recommends adding it to one of your existing daily habits. For example, when brushing your teeth perform a calf stretch.
Performing the new habit at the same time as you perform an existing one makes it easy to remember and doesn’t require you to make any additional time in your day to perform it. Therefore, it allows everyone to make a positive behaviour and lifestyle change regardless of how busy you are or how many other habits, treatments and therapies you have to fit in. If you do need an additional reminder to perform your new behaviour, then place a post it note on the kettle, toothbrush or alarm to remind yourself. Research shows having these habits scheduled causes over 90% of people to stick to them, compared to just 30-50% without (2).
In the table below is an example daily routine showing how to add a new habit to an existing one.
|Existing Habit||New Habit To Attach|
|Turn alarm off in the morning||Think of 3 things you’re grateful for|
|Brush teeth||Perform a calf stretch|
|Boil the kettle||Visualisation|
|Finish eating a meal||Walk round the block or go outside for 5 minutes|
|Open your laptop or phone||Journal practice|
|Write food shopping list||Add one new plant food to try (fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, whole grain, bean or legume)|
|Open the cupboard or fridge to prepare meals||Select one fruit or vegetable to include|
|Turn light out at night||Breathing exercise|
Tip 3). Start small
We often have a go big or go home attitude when forming new routines and habits. We’ll set unrealistic goals, such as:-
- Going from never reading to aiming to read a chapter of a book each day,
- Never exercising to aiming to do 30 minutes of stretching each day,
- Rarely eating fruit and vegetables to intending to eat 10 portions everyday,
- Not journaled before to intending to write 5 pages a day,
- Aiming to be in bed by 10pm instead of 1am.
These drastic behaviour changes require a huge amount of motivation to implement. They’re unrealistic and unsustainable. Every time we fail to stick to them, we grow increasingly frustrated and disheartened until eventually we stop trying.
It’s the small habits that make a big difference
Improving our health and building new habits and routines isn’t the result of one big effort but rather the sum of the small things you repeat everyday. Therefore, it’s recommended to scale back our intentions and start small so they don’t require much change, motivation or effort to implement.
Realistic examples of daily intentions might be:-
- Instead of reading a chapter a day, aim to read 1 page.
- Instead of aiming to do 30 minutes of breathing exercises a day, start with 1 minute.
- Rather than intending to eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables each day, start with eating 1.
- Instead of trying to go to bed at 10pm and not 1am, aim to be in bed by 12:45am.
the power of tiny gains
Never underestimate the power of the small things you do everyday. Even if you stick to these tiny amounts each day, after a year you will have accomplished a lot. For example, although doing breathing exercises for 1 minute each day may seem trivial, when repeated everyday for a year you will have performed over 6 hours of breathing exercises.
Suddenly the benefits of these small daily habits don’t seem so insignificant. So celebrate the small wins and keep doing what you’re able to, knowing that whatever you can manage will add up and make a significant contribution towards forming new habits and improving your health and wellbeing in the long run.
|Daily Habit||After 1 Year|
|1 minute||Over 6 hours|
|2 minutes||Over 12 hours|
|5 minutes||Over 30 hours|
|Read or journal 1 page||365 pages read or journalled|
|Eat 1 fruit or vegetable||Ate 365 fruits and vegetables|
Start small and progress small
As we’re able to successfully implement these tiny behaviours everyday, our motivation and satisfaction increases, making it easier to stick to our new habits and routines and do them for longer. As well as starting small, it’s important to increase the amount of time you perform your new habit and routine for each day by a small amount too, like in the table below.
|Habit Example||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|Journalling||1 page||2 pages||3 pages||4 pages|
|Be in bed by 10pm not 1am||In bed by 12:45am||In bed by 12:30am||In bed by 12:15am||In bed by 12am|
|Breathing Exercises||1 minute||2 minutes||3 minutes||4 minutes|
|Eat more fruit and vegetables||Eat 1||Eat 2||Eat 3||Eat 4|
Eventually you’ll achieve your desired aim of consistently or regularly exercising for 30 minutes, being in bed by 10pm, eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables or writing 5 pages in a journal.