One of the most helpful interventions when trying to change something or quit a bad habit is mindfulness. We spend so much of our life on autopilot. We’re not tuned in to our body, feelings, or experiences, so we end up doing things that aren’t in our best interests. We experience an urge and just do it, not realizing that we’ve had enough to drink or were full half a hamburger ago.
Mindfulness allows us to turn off our autopilot and tune in to our body and experiences. It allows us to pause and reflect. Am I actually hungry? Is this decision in my best interests? What would my future self want me to do right now? When we are mindful, we aren’t just reacting in the heat of the moment. We can observe the various parts of ourselves and make the decision that is in our best interests.
Using the Autopilot for Good
But the autopilot isn’t all bad. Good habits, just like bad habits, can become second nature. Waking up early or going to the gym can become just as automatic as drinking a case of beer in front of the TV. The key is the direction the habit is taking you. Is your habit leading you in the direction you want to go? What is the end result of your habit? Is it moving your life forward or backward?
6 Tricks to Automate a Good Habit
If you decide that a behavior is in your best interests, how can you automate it? How can you deepen a good habit so that it becomes second-nature? Here are 6 tricks to automate good habits:
#1: Engage in the Habit Regularly for a Long Time
Some people get frustrated because when they try to implement a new behavior, it feels difficult at first. It doesn’t feel like second-nature. This is actually perfectly normal. Any time you try to change anything in your life, it is difficult at first. One research study found that it took between 2-3 months of regularly engaging in a behavior before it felt more natural. The take home point is that you have to be disciplined about a behavior for a long time before it feels automatic. That’s just the way it is.
#2: Schedule It In
It can be helpful to schedule in the behavior like you would an appointment on your calendar. Why do we write down our appointments or put them in our phone? Because we can’t remember everything! We write things down and check our schedule for the day because that’s what we need to do to remember. It’s the same way with trying to develop a positive habit. Schedule it in at first.
#3: Do It at the Same Time Each Day
Habits work best when we develop rhythms where we do the same thing at the same time each day. When you are trying to develop a positive habit, do it at the same time each day. This will allow your body and muscle memory to work for you to help develop your habit.
#4: Set a Reminder
Don’t rely on your memory to put your habit into practice. Set a reminder on your phone. When trying to implement a new habit, we need nudges or triggers from our environment to remind us of our goal and keep us on track. Set a daily reminder on your iPhone to jog your memory and keep your attention focused.
#5: Reward Each Victory
Behaviors that are reinforced are more likely to occur in the future. Find something small to reward yourself each time you engage in the positive habit. There’s a reason we give our children a gold star when they do something correctly. Find the adult version of a gold star and reward yourself consistently. Just make sure your reward is healthy (e.g., no candy).
#6: Involve Your Community
Don’t try to build a positive habit alone. Share your goal with your friends and family, and let them in on your process. Let your community encourage you, cheer you on, and keep you accountable. Making your goal public can give you some added energy to keep your commitment, because you don’t want to be embarrassed or let your community down.
What is one positive habit you are trying to implement in your life? What is one thing you could do today to help you automate that good habit?