Creating new positive changes can be so challenging. I get a lot of phone calls this time of year about how all the resolutions did not work out, leaving folks even more discouraged. I, myself, do not make resolutions at all. I do set intentions, and of course SMART goals can be useful at times as well yet I found a treasure trove when I read the book Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, PhD. Fogg is head of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University and has been studying how to best create lasting change for a number of years.
He distinguishes the difference between behaviors, outcomes, and aspirations. "I want to sleep better" would be an aspiration because it is abstract. Outcomes are what we want to see like getting straight A's in the final semester of school. Behaviors are things that we can do right now or at some other time. Goals are not a term he likes because people tend to use the word goals for all of the above. According to Fogg, behaviors are the way to go about change if you want to create a lasting good habit.
Since we often come up with our desired outcomes and aspirations and even behaviors while we are highly motivated (like those New Year's Resolutions), the trick is to make the habits or behaviors very tiny or micro so that they are easy to accomplish even when you aren't feeling great or at all motivated. Consider the thought of doing 25 push-ups every day vs doing 2 wall push-ups. Big difference, right? If you were tired or sick or busy, those 25 push-ups would likely not happen, but 2 wall push-ups are fairly easy no matter what else is going on. The next trick is to choose to add your new habit to an existing one. Fogg began a flossing habit by starting with just one tooth every time he brushed his teeth. Others have begun eating healthy habits by having their salad cut and ready to grab on their way out the door. You can begin a walking habit by leaving your sneakers in front of the door and simply just putting them on every day. It's likely you will walk a little if you put them on, but that's not a requirement!
Sounds too easy, right? Well I thought I'd test it out when I was recovering from my last bout of COVID after already getting a bit out of shape. I wanted to return to my beloved hot yoga, but knew setting that as my behavior would be too much at first. So, I decided to do one sun salutation every time I used the bathroom (at home). To make it easier I put my yoga mat in the center of the living room floor so there'd be no chance I'd forget. Much to my amazement, I quickly got my strength back and within a few weeks I was back to taking 60 minute long hot yoga classes! I LOVE this stuff!
Oh, and there is one more step that is very important...right after you do your micro or tiny habit (and this is EVERY time) you celebrate...maybe do a little dance or put your arms in the runner's victory stance or just say "Yes!", but celebrate. This can seem silly celebrating little things...we tend to only want to celebrate the HUGE things, but that doesn't set us up for success like celebrating the little things. The reason why is that the brain loves to celebrate...it releases serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins when we do our little celebrations, and this feels GOOD. This makes the brain want to do more of whatever it is we celebrate which makes your tiny or micro habit even more ingrained in your brain! Amazing, right? This is why we did our January group hypnosis session on this topic and even created a recording (available under the "store" tab on Micro Habits For Lasting Change)! Hope you enjoyed. :)