The new year has arrived, and so have countless social media posts and articles about resolutions. Many of us fall into the habit of rushing a list of aims without much consideration – do “exercise more”, “sleep better”, “eat healthier”, “declutter belongings” sound familiar? And does only sticking to these resolutions for the first week of January sound familiar too?
The issue isn’t that these are “bad” goals, they’re all incredibly worthwhile – the problem is that we don’t break down the intentions behind them, they’re too broad, and we fail to research the science behind making and sustaining new habits. The good news is that addressing these points allows us to create and stick to new habits, and improve our lives…
What are keystone habits?
Exercise, sleep, eating/drinking well and decluttering can all be described as “keystone” habits, a term coined by Charles Duhigg in his revolutionary book, The Power of Habit. In a nutshell, a keystone habit is a practice that has the inherent power to spark other changes in the life of an individual.
Duhigg says they are “actions or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.” Picture it as a domino effect. For example, getting a better night’s sleep means you are able to get up earlier and therefore work on your “side hustle” before your day job, which allows you to leave your day job and become self-employed after a year.
Understanding “The Habit Loop”
Changing and introducing new habits isn’t always easy, even if the habit is something we truly want to do – it takes willpower and commitment.
Duhigg also uses “The Habit Loop” to explain why habits form and to help us understand how to develop new ones. The loop includes a cue (something that triggers the habit), a routine (the act of the habit itself) and the reward (what we get, whether tangible or intangible, from performing the routine).
Examining these three steps is a great start in creating new keystone habits for life, as is breaking down goals into clear actions.
Taking steps towards changing your life for the better
Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. at Psychology Today explains that “Small, specific actions are more likely to become habitual.” Stating “I’m going to eat healthier” is too vague, instead try “I’m going to limit myself to two takeaways a month” first, and then “I’m going to cook from scratch five times a week” etc.
These smaller, more digestible changes will eventually become the keystone habit of eating and drinking well, which will prompt a ripple effect and improve other areas of your life, such as causing you to lose excess weight and find it easier to exercise – another keystone habit.
At Nugent Sante, we believe that living life in good health, both mental and physical, is of utmost importance, and that keystone habits can help us to achieve this. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up to date with our blogs.