Triggering habits


Every morning, I get up, go to the bathroom, brush my hair, brush my teeth, get a glass of water, check my e-mail while I drink the glass of water, and then do 5 or so minutes of pilates/yoga.  The last three habits are the most recent editions to my morning routine, and I’m happy to say that I’ve been doing them every day for about a month now.  Previously, I had done them off and on, but I don’t think I ever managed this consistency before.  I read The Healthy Habit Revolution: Create Better Habits in 5 Minutes a Day, though, and it really helped give me a good basis for how habits form.

We’ve all heard that it takes at least 21 days to form a habit, so forgetting to do it once or twice can interfere with the habit-forming process. So how do we keep from forgetting to do it when it’s a new thing in our life? The main thing that I took from reading the first several chapters of this book was that each habit needs a trigger, something that signals to you that it’s time to perform this new habit.  The trigger could be an event, a time, or even a person, so if you want to make something a habit, there has to be a trigger that helps you remember to do it.    I used this idea to create a chain of triggers and habits.  Finishing in the bathroom signals that it’s time to get a glass of water, which I then drink while checking e-mail.  Finishing the glass of water signals that it’s time to do my morning exercises.    I also used this idea for doing the dishes.  Finishing lunch is the trigger to empty the dishwasher.  Finishing dinner is the trigger to fill the dishwasher. (It also helped to have a daily checklist of habits that I wanted to complete, like in the picture above, as a reminder throughout the day as I was trying to get started. Checking things off can help serve as a reward, which I may talk about in a future post.)

So if you’re trying to incorporate new habits into your life, try to find something that can be the trigger.  I recently wanted to start doing some weight training, but I would never remember until I was already in the shower at night getting ready for bed….and then it was too late.  Finally, I realized that I needed to add it to my train of morning triggers and habits, so now, finishing my yoga/pilates is the trigger to lift weights.  And I haven’t forgotten to do it once yet!

What healthy habits have you successfully incorporated into your life and what triggers do you have for these habits?  What habits would you like to develop?  What could be a trigger for each of them so that you don’t forget to do it?


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3 responses to “Triggering habits”

  1. Sharon Tjaden-Glass says :

    I really need to kick my two cups of coffee habit. This is my second day with no coffee. Let’s see how it goes. 🙂


    • Sarah says :

      The book also talked about breaking bad habits. Basically, it said if you want to stop doing something you need to replace it with something else, with a new good habit. What are you doing instead of drinking coffee? I’ve heard that coffee is good for you, though, (), so why are you trying to quit?


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