Creating New Habits is Hard
If you have ever tried creating new habits, then you know just how tough it can be. Our brains are good at making habits when they require little effort, like sitting on the couch and watching TV every night. But positive habits like eating healthy, exercising, and growing skills can be a bit more tricky to cement into your life. There are a million tips and tricks out there to try and force yourself to stick to a habit, and I’ve read them all. However, after struggling for years to build a life full of good habits, there is one simple hack I’ve learned that I’ve never seen in a blog post or self-help book before. I call this helpful technique the habit marriage.
Why Habits are So Sticky
Habits are powerful because they happen in the background. Once you incorporate positive, healthy habits that you don’t have to think about, then your life will start to improve without a ton of willpower. But that also goes the other way. Negative habits like eating poorly and staying up too late can be extra tough to get rid of because they are so deeply ingrained. Whatever we do on a regular basis is what becomes our daily reality, for better or worse. Taking control and getting a handle on our habits may be extremely challenging, but it is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life.
How to Create New Habits
Let’s say you are ready to kickstart a fresh new habit. How do you start building that habit in your life? The general understanding of habits is that you need to do them for 30-45 days to make it stick for good. But that’s where we often run into a snag. How do you remember to do this new habit every day for that long?
Most people will try to brute force their new habit into their lives. Sometimes this works, and that is all you need to make a good habit stick around long term. However, this tactic doesn’t work for lots of people and it can require an enormous amount of energy. Another technique is marking the habit on your to-do list or adding it to your habit tracker. Both of those are excellent ways to help add your habit into your life, but you can still try an easier way. The habit marriage hack helps you cut down on the effort needed to develop a habit and weave it organically into your life. So how does a habit marriage work?
Build a Habit Marriage
The idea behind a habit marriage is that your life is already full of habits. Every morning, day, and night are packed with routines that you hardly even think about. After all, that is what a habit is — an activity that you do without a great deal of thought or effort. The habit marriage hacks into these background routines by working with the existing structure of your life. In order to establish a brand new positive habit, find an existing habit and pair the new with the old to create a habit marriage.
For example, let’s say I want to draw a little bit every day to increase my art skills. I could try to wedge it into any free fifteen minutes during the day. However, this approach could easily lead to me forgetting about my desire to draw because it is so inconsistent. I could also find that I don’t have any free time, so the new habit gets shunted to the bottom of my list of priorities.
A better approach would be to find an existing habit and link my drawing to that habit instead. Every morning I drink coffee. This is a habit that is deeply ingrained into my life, so it’s an easy pick. With a habit marriage, I can choose to draw for fifteen or twenty minutes while I finish my first cup of coffee instead of scrolling through Instagram.
Why the Habit Marriage Works
How does forming a habit marriage work any better than creating new habits the traditional way? The answer is simple. Typical habit forming tactics ask you to forcefully add a new habit into your life. A habit marriage only asks for a small tweak. A habit marriage gives you a chance to swim with the current, not against it.
When you form a habit marriage, you are taking something that already works and simply adding to it. When you do this, you give your new habit a comfortable spot to grow and develop into a fully formed habit. An added bonus of a habit marriage is that the original habit will quickly serve as a reminder to do your new habit. As I said, new habits are notoriously difficult to remember because they are so undeveloped. Mentally tying the new to the old will help you keep your new habit in mind as you go about your daily routines.
Take a Look at Your Routines
To create your own habit marriage, begin to think about your daily routines in more detail. What do you do every single day without thinking about it? Write out a list of all the habits you can think of. Some common daily habits include:
- Waking up
- Brushing your teeth
- Walking the dog
- Drinking coffee/tea
- Checking your email
- Traveling to/from work
- Checking social media
- Doing the dishes
- Going to bed
Look for Good Matches
Once you have compiled a list of your daily routines, begin to look for a match for your new habit. For best results, try to only implement one habit at a time. If you try to change your life overnight, then you will almost certainly fail. Baby steps will get you further faster. If your habit is something that can be done quickly, then find a short existing habit to marry it to. For example, if you want to start a habit of saying positive affirmations, then try pairing it with getting dressed or brushing your teeth.
Longer routines, like your commute to and from work or cooking dinner, are suited perfectly for more time-consuming new habits. For example, if you are wanting to read more or hone an existing skill, then you can bring a book onto the train with you or listen to audiobooks. Or if you have a routine of watching a certain show or Youtube videos every day, then pair it with exercise. Bring your phone and headphones to the gym and go nuts. Do cardio while you watch your daily content and you can easily hit two birds with one stone. Pro tip: if you really want to up the ante, then only allow yourself to watch your favorite show when you are at the gym. This will incentivize you very quickly!
Hack Your Routines
Habits are tough enough as it is, so why make things harder on yourself? Form a habit marriage with a steady routine and you will find that your habits are easier to remember and quicker to develop. Not all habit marriages are going to work out perfectly the first time. Like a real marriage, they will still need plenty of effort. But by working smart and putting in the energy, you will find that you can take on habits in a whole new way.