Forming New Habits

When I was in my twenties, I remember speaking with someone who told me that if you were to take just three deep breaths every day, you would never suffer from certain ailments or diseases. Sadly, I cannot remember which ones now – perhaps someone out there will know. It doesn’t really matter because the subject of this post is about forming beneficial habits.

Anyway, staying with that story for a moment, I remember asking that fellow, “so, is that something you actually do?” And his reply was something to the effect of, “When I can remember to do it.” I also remember thinking that it would be something I should try and, over the years, just like the person who told me about this simple beneficial exercise, I have done it when I could remember.

Today was one of those days. I don’t know why it came to mind, but it did and I duly took my three deep breaths. But then I started thinking about why neither the person who told me about this exercise, nor myself, had managed to make a habit of something we were both convinced would be very beneficial. Clearly it has nothing to do with effort because taking three deep breaths is just about the easiest exercise you will ever perform.

But the inability to remember to do it consistently, for long enough to make it a habit is clearly the problem. So today, as I took my three breaths, I thought to myself that I ought to make this a habit and, of course, I’ll let you know how this works for me, but here’s what I did. I had just finished brushing my teeth – naturally, something I do every day without thinking. So I decided that I would piggy-back this new habit on the back of brushing my teeth.

From today onward, when I go through my morning ablutions, the process will conclude with me engaging in that deep breathing routine. Can you see how that simple idea should quite easily remove the ‘remembering to take action’ obstacle? Tomorrow when I brush my teeth, I will remember my commitment and simply take those breaths – a simple, but very effective tool.

So I thought I would mention this idea because there may be many other beneficial habits you would like to acquire and the key to being able to do that is to just get yourself actually performing the action to want to become habitual for long enough – perhaps around 30 days. After that, there’s a good chance you will have formed a new habit.

What is it that you would like to make a habit? Why not sit down and make a little list and then think about how you can piggy-back the required actions onto something you already do regularly. See where they would naturally fit in with your existing daily or weekly routines and then make an effort to associate the new action with an existing habitual one.

For example, supposing you would really like to exercise once per week. Can you find a place in your weekly schedule where you always do something – perhaps doing the shopping or seeing a friend even having a night out. It can be anything really, but it needs to be something you already do every week and it also needs to be an appropriate place to fit the new activity in.

Once you have identified such a place in your schedule, you then simply make a commitment that, in future, every time you come back from that shopping trip, you will get your running shoes on – or whatever. The idea is that this will ensure you don’t forget. Of course, you do need to follow through by taking action, but in perhaps a couple of months your new exercise routine should be well established.

New, get your thinking cap on and see if you can identify some new beneficial habits you would like to piggy-back onto your existing daily/weekly routines.

2 thoughts on “Forming New Habits

  1. This article and others gave me the drive to heal myself and promote well being & Self-Development to others !

    Thank You Will !

  2. Hi Will,
    Enjoyed the article, I do the breathing exercise at night when I go to bed just before my evening prayer. Instead of 3 deep breaths I do 10. It helps me relax and seems to ease my sore muscles plus other aches and pains. I recommend deep breathing for everyone.

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