Living a healthy lifestyle every day can seem like a pipe dream sometimes. Between busy schedules, hectic jobs and unpredictable social lives, cramming in activities to improve well-being, such as watering plants, reading a book or meditating for five minutes can seem not just daunting, but downright impossible.
We’ve all been there: we want to make a healthy change, but we don’t know how to possibly do it.
The answer to getting it done? Habit stacking.
What is Habit stacking?
As we age, the number of neurons in our brains decline. We start to prune the neural connections that we do not use often, becoming more reliant on the synapses we rely on frequently. It’s why some of us continue to wake up at the same time we did in high school well into middle age or need to fall asleep listening to an audio book or the TV.
Habit stacking is a life hack that helps you develop new habits by building on the ones you have already. Instead of trying to drastically change your entire lifestyle, you instead break down new, healthy behaviors into manageable chunks of time. Then, you match them with current, reliable habits ingrained in your day to tweak your lifestyle in a positive yet familiar way.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits a New York Times bestseller summarizes How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones in Behavioral Psychology. Another good resource is in an article by Olivia Ovenden in Esquire, Habit Stacking: How to Train Your Brain With Routine. Get stuff done by grouping together small tasks into pattern chains. And finally one of our favorite books by Marina Khidekel and the editors of Thrive Global, Your Time To Thrive includes a forward by Arianna Huffington who shares, “So our lifestyle is, in essence, the sum total of our habits. Change your habits and you change your life.”
Start Habit Stacking Now
The great thing about habit stacking is that anyone can do it–after all, we all have habits!
Start by making a list of the healthy changes you would like to make. For example, if you would like to start gardening, put down watering your plants each day. Meditating, flossing, drinking more water–the possibilities are endless. Then, make a list of habits that you have already. Making a cup of coffee, listening to the radio during your commute or watching an episode of your favorite show at night are all ones that we’ve identified in ourselves.
After you have two lists, it’s a simple matching game. Pair behaviors that take a similar amount of time or fall during similar times of day. For example, brewing a cup of coffee takes about five minutes, so this could be a good time to water your plants. When brushing your teeth in the morning, try to incorporate a few minutes of mindful meditation. Before you know it, your new healthy practices will be new healthy habits.
How do you see habit stacking working into your day?