Oh, January. The month of fresh starts and new resolutions. Or just the continuation of the last year and the hope that things will be better. Whether you consider January a success or a bust, here are some thoughts on creating new habits.
Set yourself up for success
One habit I seem to constantly work on is rising when my alarm goes off. It seems obvious, but if I stay up late I’m not setting myself up for success. If I want to be successful, I need to get to bed on time. Bedtime is when this habit starts. I certainly won’t have many days of success if I try to live on 4 hours of sleep! (Caveat: if you have a newborn, hurrah for 4 hours of sleep! And, who needs alarm clocks anyways?)
For my kids, I need to remember what they’re capable of and to give them adequate prep. Since kids like routines, if I’m consistent (the hard part for me) my kids will pick up new habits pretty quickly.
Create a “cue” for your desired habits
One component of habit formation that I hadn’t thought to label before is a “cue”– a trigger that signals the brain to check for a pre-established routine (thanks to The Fine Parent for this tip!). When our son started preschool, I set an alarm to cue him when it was time to put his shoes on and get in the car. Apparently my kids responded well to this cue since when the alarm went off while on vacation they stopped what they were doing thinking it was time to go to school.
As an adult, I’m using the idea of a cue to help make sure I go for a walk. I made lunch my cue, and so long as no one’s sleeping or sick, we head outside after we finish eating.
Create a specific plan for new habits before they’re challenged
Making a specific routine to encourage myself to stop perpetually snoozing my alarm has been helpful. Before I go to bed, I place my phone across the room. I then specifically plan out my first 3-4 tasks upon waking (turn off alarm, use bathroom, drink water…). Since I’ve already decided exactly what to do I’m not relying on my brain to make rational decisions. Routines aren’t fool proof, but knowing exactly what I’m supposed to do has helped me start breaking a bad habit.