Read a few pages of a book every evening, go for walks more often, eat healthier, do yoga more often – the list of resolutions could be extended indefinitely. Everyone knows the problem: integrating the new project into everyday life. The goals are quickly set and full of motivation the alarm clock is set 15 minutes earlier on the first day, the yoga mat is rolled out and the morning flow is mastered with flying colours. But after a few days, the perfect excuse is quickly found as to why this Wednesday is simply not a good day for the earlier alarm clock and the workout. The actual project recedes into the background and gradually disappears from everyday life. And the frustration of not having managed to do more sport once again remains.
One consolation: those who fail are not alone. It's just hard to accommodate new behaviors in everyday life. It has to do with how our brain works. It loves habits and routines, which is why ingrained behaviors like brushing our teeth every day are easy to pull off, while making the daily yoga class a habit is incredibly difficult for us.
There are neural connections in our brain - and they are strongest for habits that we have been practicing for a long time. That's why it's so easy for us to fall back into old patterns of behavior: watching series instead of reading a book or lying in bed instead of exercising. Researchers also know that it is difficult to integrate new projects into everyday life. But that's no reason to stick your head in the sand. There are techniques we can use to trick our brains.
One technique is habit stacking. The author S.J. Scott described this method back in 2014 in his book Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less. Later the author James Clear adapted and extended this technique in "Atomic Habits". The idea: New habits are linked to an existing one to make it easier to stick with it. For example, if you want to walk more steps a day, you should combine this project with an existing routine: After lunch, go out the door for a 15-minute walk.
"Habit stacking is a very effective habit forming strategy because it builds on the existing neural networks in our brain," psychologist Melissa Ming Foynes told Real Simple. The existing habit acts as an indication of the new habit that has yet to be incorporated into everyday life. If you want to meditate daily, you can combine your meditation practice with brushing your teeth. Brushing your teeth then reminds you of the meditation and becomes a signal for the new habit. "In the midst of a hectic lifestyle, habit stacking can also be helpful because new habits often feel less like an 'add-on' when they're connected to something you're already doing," says Foynes.
In order to integrate the daily yoga class or the evening reading of a book into everyday life, the existing habits must first be identified with "Habit Stacking". So take a look at your everyday life and think about which existing routine would be the best to attach the new activity to.
It can look like this, for example:
After the evening facial cleansing, sportswear and a yoga mat are laid out. After getting up, the mat is rolled out and the yoga class begins.
Introduce relationship ritual:
After going to bed I give my partner a kiss.
Who wants to eat healthier:
After cooking, always shovel the vegetables onto the plate first.
Routines and habits are important for us to change our behavior. However, it takes around 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit and work almost by itself. Habit stacking can help to bridge this time and make it easier for yourself to exercise more, eat healthier or read more. It is important that your own project fits into everyday life and can be integrated.
If it doesn't work immediately with more sport or the daily walk, that's not a problem. It only takes a while for the brain to store the new intention as a habit and then the daily walk becomes very easy.