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How To Make Habits Stick

All of us can always do with dropping certain habits and adding better ones in. It's easy to reel off a long list of things we want to do...but how do we actually do them and then stick to them? (I've lost count of how many times I go to sleep wanting to wake up earlier than usual and then forget this all the next day when I'm wrapped in my duvet like a burrito, barely awake enough to press snooze).



So how can you set an intention and then see it through?

You may have heard it before, but the best thing to do to make habits stick is to start off small. The key is to focus on one new habit at a time and incorporate it into your life slowly, as opposed to expecting too much too soon. (Take my example of waking up earlier - as I usually wake up at 8, attempting to start waking up at 6 might be a far stretch, so I might set my alarm at half 7 and then take it from there.)


In addition to this, set a cue, reward and craving system. While teeth-brushing has been around since 3000 BC, this system is what Hopkins used to convince the world to use toothpaste on a daily basis. Here's how.


1) CUE - He emphasised that plaque built up on teeth and that consistently brushing using toothpaste helped to clean the teeth as well as make them whiter.

2) REWARD - The reward was feeling clean and having a fresh, white smile!

3) CRAVING - People started to crave toothbrushing. This is because rewarding behaviour can create a craving as neurons provide a chemical reward. And once a habit and a reward are associated, the rewards are triggered before behaviour happens.


So, set yourself a cue. What will waking up an hour earlier do for you? What will exercising a few times a week do for you? And then once you do them, what's the reward? How do you feel? Can that new thing then become a craving?


Chemistry is constantly changing in the brain. You can decide at any point to instil new habits or break old ones and the more you persist, the actual structure of your brain changes - new neural pathways are created and you're well on your way to new behaviours, activities and so on. So the next time you think you 'don't' have the discipline to do something, remind yourself that it's all in the mind.

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