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7 Tips for Building New Habits

7 Tips for Building New Habits

Building new habits is one of the most challenging and most rewarding processes we’ll experience in our lives. The tips below are specifically about starting new (and hopefully healthy) habits, but you can also adapt them to support you in breaking existing unhealthy habits.

1. Find your motivation

Habits are far more likely to succeed if they are based on intrinsic motivation, rather than extrinsic motivation. Entire books have been written about this complex topic so, in a nutshell, the difference between the two is that intrinsic motivation is internal, while extrinsic motivation is external. For example, perhaps you want to create a new exercise habit. An intrinsic motivation for doing this might be wanting to be healthy (an internal motivation that just concerns yourself). An extrinsic motivation might be wanting to lose weight so that other people will perceive you as more attractive (an external motivation that is based on the perceptions and judgments of others).

To give yourself the best chance of creating a sustainable habit, take a good, long look at your motives before you even start working on this new activity. You might find that your motivation is intrinsic to begin with (great!), that you need to shift your thinking slightly, or notice that this particular habit is something you’re doing for someone else, rather than for yourself.

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Even if you realise that you’re engaging in this particular habit for someone else, that doesn’t mean you have to ditch the habit entirely, it just means that you need to think more about whether you have a personal, intrinsic motivation you can use to sustain the habit in the long term.

2. Start small

The easiest way to sabotage a new habit is by taking the ‘all or nothing’ approach and going from 0 to 100 in the first few days. Starting small and increasing the frequency and intensity of the habit will make it far easier to sustain in the long-term than leaping right in. This is especially the case if you are starting something like a new exercise habit, where throwing yourself into a rigorous training regime before your body and mind are ready could result in injury and set you back more than it helps you.

Setting the bar low also reduces the likelihood that you’ll get discouraged and drop your habit because it’s ‘too challenging’ or because you’re not making the progress you’d hoped you would. Which leads onto the next tip…

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3. Be compassionate, not critical

If you only pay attention to one tip in the entire post, this is it: Internal criticism is the kryptonite of building new habits and you’ll find it much easier to create a sustainable habit if you’re on your own side. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of the inner critic (in my experience, that’s not a realistic goal), but being mindful of it.

When we’re mindful of our inner critics, we hear what they say but we’re not controlled by what they say. Maintaining this distance can take some practise (and you might find yourself with ample opportunity to do just that while building your new habit!). At the same time as maintaining distance from your inner critic, take the opportunity to strengthen your internal ‘nurturing’ voice—the voice that tells you your best is enough and supports and encourages you on your journey.

4. Enlist support

Feel free to ask trusted friends and family for any help and support they can give you while you’re building your new habit. External support is especially helpful when you’re building habits that require lifestyle changes, such as changing your diet or your exercise habits. If you are around other people who have a similar lifestyle to you, asking them to support you in making your lifestyle habit changes by, for example, not bringing sugary foods into the house, will make it easier for you to maintain a new habit.

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5. Be accountable

Declaring your new habit to others is a great way of getting support from people around you, and it’s a great way of adding a healthy dose of accountability to your situation too. Being accountable might involve enlisting the help of a dedicated accountability buddy that you check in with on a regular basis, or going public with your new habit to your wider circles of friends.

6. Set a regular schedule

Making your new habit a regular part of your daily or weekly routine from the very beginning will give you a much greater chance of sustaining it over a longer period of time. Dedicating a specific block of time to your habit on the same day and hour each week will make it easier to integrate that habit into your life than just waiting until you feel like doing it.

In addition, some habits are easier to implement first thing in the morning, particularly activities like exercise, meditation or keeping a journal. Setting aside time for a new habit first thing in the morning not only makes it easier to remember but it also gives you the satisfaction of moving on with your day, knowing that that particular activity is ticked off your to-do list.

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7. Have a goal in mind

Having a specific goal to work towards can help maintain your new habit and give you a challenge to work towards. If you choose to create a habit-related goal, make sure it is SMART: specific, measurable, appealing, realistic and time-based. For example, ‘start running more’ is a goal, but it’s hard to know when you’ve achieved it and what ‘more’ looks like in practical terms. Instead, setting a goal like “Run that charity 10K in September” is a SMART goal and therefore easier to work towards. It’s specific, measurable, hopefully appealing and realistic, and it’s time-based.

What are your tips for creating new habits? Leave a comment and let us know.

More by this author

Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on October 14, 2020

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Today didn’t turn out as you planned, but it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means that you’re human, and you’re not bad just because you had a bad day.

“Not everyday is a good day but there is something good in every day.” -Alice Morse Earle

It’s not the end of the world when you find yourself thinking “I had a bad day,” but it can feel like it. You may have had plans that fell apart, experiences that set you back, and interactions that only did harm.

You may have started the day thinking you could take on it all, only to find you could hardly get out of bed. When you have a bad day, you can forget to look at the good.

Sometimes, self-care helps us to remember why we are worth it. It helps us to recharge and reset our mindset. It helps us to know that there are still options and that the day isn’t over yet.

Love yourself today, no matter how hard it’s been. That’s the way to find yourself amidst the hardships you have. That’s how you center yourself and regain focus and live a more meaningful life. Give yourself some credit and compassion.

Here are 7 ways to rebound from a bad day using self-compassion as a tool. If you had a bad day, these are for you!

1. Make a Gratitude List

In a study on gratitude, psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted an experiment where one group of people wrote out gratitude lists for ten weeks while another group wrote about irritations. The study found that the group that wrote about gratitude reported more optimistic mindsets in their lives[1].

Overall, having a gratitude list improved well-being and made one truly grateful by counting the blessings in their lives.

Write a list of what you are grateful for if you had a bad day. Make it as long as you like, but also remember to note why you’re grateful for each thing you write.

What has given you the most joy? What has set you up for better days? Keep a tally of triumphs in mind, especially when you do have the bad days.

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The day doesn’t define you, and you still have things of value that surround you. These could be material things, spiritual connections and experiences, relationships, basic needs, emotional and mental well-being, physical health, progress towards hopes and dreams, or simply being alive.

Here are some other simple ways to practice gratitude.

2. Write in a Journal

Journaling affects your overall mental health, which also affects physical health and aids in the management of stress, depression, anxiety, and more[2].

All you need is a pen and paper, or you could do an online, password-protected journal such as Penzu. The key is to get started and not pressure yourself on how polished or perfect it is. You don’t need to have prior experience to start journal writing. Just start.

Write out everything that is bothering you for 15 minutes. This helps with rumination, processing problems, and can even aid with brainstorming solutions.

However you approach it, you can find patterns of thinking that no longer serve you and start to transform your overall mental state. This will impact all areas of your life and is a great coping skill.

3. Meditate

Meditation can help you overcome negative thought patterns, worrying about the future, dwelling on the past, or struggling to overcome a bad day[3]. It shifts your mentality and helps you focus on the present or any one thing you truly want to focus on.

Here is an example of a meditation you can do:

Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Rest your body, release tension, and unclench your jaw. Tighten and release each muscle group in a body scan for progressive muscle relaxation.

Focus on your breath, taking a few deep breaths. Let your belly expand when you breathe in for diaphragmatic breathing. Empty yourself completely of air, then return to normal breathing.

Next, focus on the idea of self-love and let it erase negative thoughts. Think about the ways you’ve been judging yourself, with the narratives coming up that your mind may create.

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Give yourself unconditional love and release judgment. Take your time meditating on this because you matter. This is particularly important if you had a bad day.

Check out this article for more on how to get started with a meditation practice.

4. Do Child’s Pose

Yoga Outlet says:

“Child’s Pose is a simple way to calm your mind, slow your breath, and restore a feeling of peace and safety. Practicing the pose before bedtime can help to release the worries of the day. Practicing in the morning can you help transition from sleeping to waking.”[4]

When you do Child’s Pose, it can be between difficult positions in yoga, or it can be anytime you feel you need a rest. It helps you recover from difficulties and relax the mind.

It also has the physical health benefits of elongating your back, opening your hips, and helping with digestion[5].

To do Child’s Pose, rest your buttocks back on your feet, knees on the floor. Elongate your body over your knees with both arms extended or tucked back, with head and neck resting on the floor[6].

Had a bad day? Try Child's Pose.

     

    Do this pose as a gift to yourself. You are allowing yourself to heal, rest, get time for yourself, recover, and recharge. When you’ve had a bad day, it’s there waiting for you.

    5. Try Positive Self-Talk

    Engage in positive self-talk. This is essentially choosing your thoughts.

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    When you have a negative thought, such as “I can’t do this,” replace it consciously with the thought “I can do this.” Give yourself positive affirmations to help with this.

    Negative self-talk fits into four general categories: personalizing or blaming yourself, magnifying or only focusing on the negative, catastrophizing or expecting the worst to happen, and polarizing or only seeing back and white[7].

    When you stop blaming yourself for everything and start focusing on the positive, expecting things to work out, and seeing the areas of grey in life, you reverse these negative mindsets and engage in positive self-talk.

    When you speak words of kindness to yourself, your brain responds with a more positive attitude. That attitude will affect everything you do. It’s how you take care of yourself if you had a bad day.

    Check in with yourself to know when you are having negative self-talk. Are you seeing patterns? When did they start to become a problem? Are you able to turn these thoughts around?

    6. Use Coping Skills and Take a Break

    Use your coping skills. This means not letting your thoughts take control of yourself.

    You can distract yourself and escape a bit. Do things you love. You can exercise, listen to music, dance, volunteer or help someone, be in nature, or read a book.

    It isn’t about repression. It’s about redirection. You can’t stay in thoughts that are no longer working for you.

    Sometimes, it’s okay to get out of your own way. Give yourself a break from the things going on in your head. You can always come back to a problem later. This may even help you figure out the best course of action as sometimes stepping away is the only way to see the solution.

    If you had a bad day, you may not feel like addressing what went wrong. You may need a break, so take one.

    7. If a Bad Day Turns Into Bad Days

    “I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.” –Jim Carrey

    If you’ve been feeling out of control, depressed, or unstable for more than a few weeks, it’s time to call a mental health professional. This is not because you have failed in any way. It’s because you are human, and you simply need help.

    You may not be able to quickly rebound from a bad day, and that’s fine. Feel what you feel, but don’t let it consume you.

    When you talk to a professional, share the techniques that you have already tried here and whether they were helpful. They may tell you additional ideas or gain insights from your struggles of not being able to rebound from a series of bad days.

    If you’re having more than just a bad day, they will want to know. If you don’t have the answers, that’s okay, too. You just need to try these tools and figure out how you’re feeling. That’s all that’s required of you.

    Keep taking care of yourself. Any progress is progress, no matter how small. Give yourself a chance to get better by reaching out.

    Final Thoughts

    If you had a bad day, don’t let it stop you.

    Know this: It’s okay not to be okay. You have a right to feel what you feel. But there is something you can do about it.

    You can invest in yourself via self-care.

    You are not alone in this. Everyone has bad days from time to time. You just need to know that you are the positive things you tell yourself.

    More Things You Can Do If You Had a Bad Day

    Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

    Reference

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