by Lara Heimann, PT
In the journey of personal development, the power of habit formation cannot be overstated. Whether you’re aiming for improved health, increased productivity, or a more positive mindset, cultivating effective habits is the key to sustained success. If the word ‘habit’ feels uninteresting, daunting, or intimidating, let’s first delve into the science and strategies behind habit formation, offering you a practical blueprint for lasting change and fueling the spark for growth and change!
Habits are the building blocks of our daily lives, often operating on autopilot. Charles Duhigg, in his book “The Power of Habit,” breaks down habits into three components: cue, routine, and reward. Recognizing these elements is crucial for understanding and reshaping our behaviors.
The Habit Loop consists of three parts:
- Cue: Identify the trigger that initiates the habit. It could be a specific time of day, an emotional state, or a particular environment. A cue could be your LYT yoga mat lying out on the floor! The mat can send an immediate cue that will spark some response in your nervous system.
- Routine: This is the behavior or action prompted by the cue. It’s the habitual part of the habit loop. For example, the LYT mat is the place where you practice your movement routine. Even if it’s not yet as consistent as you want, the cue will help foster a more regular routine and ignite a stronger feedback loop that fuels your habit. And your practice as part of your routine will further strengthen the loop.
- Reward: The positive outcome or satisfaction derived from completing the routine. Rewards reinforce the habit loop. When you practice on your mat with more regularity, just looking at the mat will prompt a positive feeling; the reward center of the brain is activated before you even begin moving because the habit loop is forged, leading to a craving for that wonderful feeling you get when you practice.
Investing in creating more optimal habits will reap the most benefits when we implement these steps.
First, start small! One reason many well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions don’t succeed is you might take a huge leap and attempt to do too much, too soon. When your intentions don’t manifest into habitual shifts, the feedback loop is short-circuited. For a greater possibility of success in habit formation, begin with manageable changes. Small habits are more sustainable and pave the way for larger transformations over time. For example, if you want to start being more active and consistent with your fitness/movement routine, begin with 5-10 minutes daily. If you are already doing that but want to ramp up the demand, start with 5-10 minutes of greater intensity and perform 3-4 days a week for the first month. Once you feel the benefit of that added movement or activity, you will naturally crave more time spent with that change.
Second, be specific and clearly define your habit. Instead of a vague goal like “exercise more,” specify “take a 15-minute walk every morning” or “sign up for a 6-week program called ‘Build Your Capacity’ “(we happen to have created this habit-building program just for you!).
Third, remember and write it down indelibly in your brain cells and even in a journal: ‘Consistency is Key’! Repetition is fundamental to habit formation so consistently practice the routine to reinforce the habit loop.
Fourth, raise your accountability by sharing your goals with a friend or family member, or use tools like habit-tracking apps to stay accountable and motivated. Get your friend or loved one to join you in a fitness program to increase your motivation and consistency.
Finally, celebrate progress! Acknowledge and celebrate small victories. Positive reinforcement strengthens the neural pathways associated with the habit.
When working on habit formation, don’t be discouraged by occasional setbacks. Use them as opportunities to learn and refine your approach. In the pursuit of lasting change, mastering the art of habit formation is a transformative skill. By understanding the science behind habits and employing strategic approaches, you can cultivate positive behaviors that lead to a more fulfilling and successful life. Remember, it’s not about radical changes overnight but about consistent, intentional efforts that shape your habits and, in turn, shape your future.
For more information about the LYT habit-building 6-week “Build Your Capacity” program that includes meditation, mobility, strength, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), LYT flows, and lifestyle tips, check out this link. We are pulling for you always!