Own Your Health in 2021 With Atomic Habits

It’s a brand new shiny year, and while we have little control over what goes on in the world in 2021, the one place we truly CAN make a difference is in ourselves! January is the month of new beginnings, resolutions, getting back on track! Sadly though, too often by the time February rolls around those resolutions are long forgotten and we've slowly slipped back into some of the unhealthy behaviors we were so intent on shifting just 31 days before!

14-Jan 2021, by Bronwyn MacRitchie

Behaviour Change

However, perhaps if we started looking at behaviour change differently, instead of only keeping our eyes on a huge, far away goal, we could be a little gentler with ourselves, stop setting ourselves up to experience ourselves as having failed, and actually start effecting positive, healthy changes in our lives.

This is why if you work with a health coach your goals will be broken down into small achievable steps on the path to the overarching bigger goal, so that you get to experience your progress and success along the way.

A Different View?

But, what if we switched the focus from the goal to the system? This is what James Clear advocates in his book Atomic Habits. This has certainly been my favourite December/January read, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in further optimizing their lifestyle and creating more healthy habits that stick!

Clear breaks the success of creating a habit that becomes a part of your lifestyle down into 4 laws that govern the 4 stages of behaviours that we repeat. Cue, craving, response and reward. He then details how to harness the power of these stages to either implement a new habit or remove an unhelpful one.

Of course I wouldn’t want to take all the awesome out of reading the book yourselves, so I’m going to detail a single tool he suggests in Law 1 – Make it Obvious (referring to the first stage of the behaviour, the cue) that I have found very useful. Habit Stacking!

While James Clear attributes this particular trick to BJ Fogg, he goes on to develop this stage of the habit that sticks with more depth and intricacy in the laws that follow and the remainder of the book. This means that while habit stacking is super effective at cuing a new habit, the added tools Clear goes on to give hugely increase the likelihood of the habit becoming a part of who you are.

My First Habit Stacking Win

One habit that has truly become a part of my lifestyle and so is now a constant for me is meditation. There are very few days I go without doing it, and on the days I do, I have replaced it with a yoga class that provides many of the same benefits. However, I have long held the intention of including SOME yoga on days when I don’t do a full yoga class (most days).

The time of day I meditate varies according to whatever else I have in my schedule, but it always happens. I placed my yoga matt next to my meditation cushion. Going to meditate is my constant, my cue, so when I go to my cushion, I roll out my yoga mat, and when I stand up from meditating, even though I might want to rush off into another activity, my matt is there, ready to go, and I am ONLY committed to doing 5 minutes. So, I do! And on days where time is less of an issue those 5 minutes are a little more than 5. It’s a TINY change but my body LOVES me for it! And it’s been in place for a month now… Who knows what I may be able to stack on to that in the future… but I do know that when I tried to commit to 30 minutes of yoga a day it lasted about a week and a half!

Karim's First Habit Stacking Win

Karim Hamandi, Primal Health Coach, here in the UAE, has also implemented habit stacking to his advantage since reading Atomic Habits.

‘My morning routine has one constant, it is the first thing I do when I get out of bed, and that is coffee. It is fairly simple to get drawn into an empty time-wasting cycle of sipping coffee on the sofa, browsing social media and watching the sun rise.

Habit stacking has helped me create a simple morning routine around that coffee ritual, that honestly, I will never miss out on.

Since I sleep with my bedroom door closed (think better cooling and keeping the cat out) I wrote down this stack

When I get out of bed (also a constant), I will set my bed. Before I open my bedroom door and have a coffee, I will wash my face and brush my teeth. When I make my coffee, I will do my breathing exercises and meditate.

When I’m done, only THEN do I allow myself to sit back and relax a bit, before starting the day.

Starting my day with these good habits, and getting things done, gives me this small boost and sense of accomplishment, sets things in motion and gets me ready for a great day ahead.’

For more inspiration from Karim, follow him on IG here!

Why Do I Need to Work on My Habits?

When we begin to increase our healthy habits, we also begin to reformulate our identities as healthier, happier humans. The sense of achievement and we feel is incremental to the beneficial impact of the chosen habit on your body and mind too.

The mounting science on epigenetics confirms over and over again that we DO get to write our own stories. That our health and wellbeing truly ARE in our hands, even when we haven’t won the genetic lottery in some aspects, we can still reprogram our genes for health and wellness if we stay committed to choosing to be the best version of ourselves. Always remembering that we need to tend to ALL of ingfit’s Four Pillars of Health and Wellness:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Exercise
  3. Sleep
  4. Stress

And when we build habits that tend to these pillars, we are expressing our commitment to not only a longer LIFESPAN, but a longer HEALTHSPAN too!

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Bronwyn MacRitchie

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