How many times have you made a positive change that felt very rewarding…only to slip back into old behaviours very quickly? The answer is probably more times than you can remember. Here, we explain how to make positive changes stick.
Keep it simple
Research into behavioural change shows that we are more likely to adopt positive change as a lasting habit if we begin with easy shifts. For example, if we decide that we want to exercise more, joining an expensive gym on the other side of town when you have very little free time is probably not the best idea. However, committing to a walk at lunchtime could easily be added to your routine.
Psychologist BJ Fogg of Stanford University tells a simple story about positive change: when he wanted to adopt the habit of flossing his teeth every day, he started with just one tooth at a time.
Piggyback change onto existing habits
If we hook a new habit onto an existing habit, we have more chance of adopting a lasting routine. For example, if you always make a coffee at breakfast time, but want to additionally start eating a healthy breakfast, prepare your breakfast while the water for your coffee is boiling.
Or, if you enjoy listening to a podcast every day but want to move more – stretch and tone while listening to your podcast.
Understand how your mind and body work
In the mornings, we are propelled by the hormone cortisol, helping us to power through. Perhaps this is the best time to add exercise to your routine. In contrast, in the evenings, levels of the sleep hormone melatonin are higher making more relaxing changes like journaling or self-care easier.
Celebrate your success
When you add positive feelings to your changes, you are more likely to make the changes stick. Reward yourself with treats – a delicious meal with friends, a day out in a fascinating city, a cosy night at home Infront of your favourite movie.
The key to lasting change is to be self-disciplined but not hard on yourself.
Keep change simple. Do not overwhelm yourself or add too much pressure to your routine.
Build on small changes to get where you want to be.
Work with the rhythm of your body and mind.
Celebrate your successes with healthy rewards.
There are some great motivational books to help you make positive changes to your life. Here are some of our favourites:
Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick, by Wendy Wood
Professor Wendy Wood is one of the world’s most prominent experts on habits. Using decades of original research, she explains the science of forming habits and teaches us how to make changes stick.
Positive Changes: A Self-Kick Book by Shelley F Knight
Down to earth author, Shelley F. Knight, uses real stories, advice, personal development tools and humour to help you make positive changes in bitesize chunks.