Self-love is critical to self-sustained happiness.
Self-improvement is one of the significant components of self-love.
Therefore, forming new habits is one of the many ways to self improve.
But how does one form new habits?
Here’s an excerpt from a Healthline article:
According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit.
The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic.
That sounds like a lot of work…and it is. But there are ways to make this journey more comfortable. Here’s a step by step guide on how I managed to develop new (and healthy) habits. But first, you should understand that I am not an incredibly disciplined individual. Or rather, I didn’t start out as one. There were times in my life where I spent days rotting away on the bed playing games. Heck, there are times where I still do that. However, I have also successfully developed a personal strategy for self-improvement.
1) Review Your Current Lifestyle
Think about how you spend your time. Are there periods where you can fill them with something new? How long are these periods? How about your energy levels? Are there days where you are bursting with energy? Or are you constantly feeling lethargic?
If you do not have the time and mindset to develop a new habit or hobby, then you are already setting yourself up for failure (which isn’t always a bad thing!). Before starting a new hobby, you should aim to balance your time and commitments well. When that’s settled, THEN you can start thinking about how to build a new habit.
2) Understand How You Tick
The second step is to figure out how you tick. There are some life habits that will work for you and not for others. The opposite is also true. For example, I discovered that setting up my to-do list on digital platforms like apps does NOT work for me. I get no satisfaction from pressing a checkbox on my phone. However, I CAN stick to a physical scheduler because I enjoy crossing out items on a written list.
Then, I tried to specify the time that I will complete these items. Eventually, I discovered this doesn’t work for me because it adds too much pressure. A simple list proved to be the best way for me to keep to my daily plans.
This step will require some trial and error. But once you’ve figured out how you tick, you will start to see a dramatic increase in your ability to be productive.
3) Start Out Small
Many of us have big goals. One of mine is, obviously, to write a book. Accomplishing these big goals appear impossible… until you realise each big goal can be broken down into many small goals. One such small goal for me is to get into the rhythm of writing content that does not have a hard deadline. I do not have difficulties completing tasks with a deadline. But for those that do not have one, like a book of my own? Yeah, that poses a huge problem.
One other example of mine is exercise. I’ve hated exercise ever since I was a teen. Even now, I kind of dislike it. I’ve even wasted multiple gym memberships in the past decade in my attempts to restart it. But now, I can maintain an exercise regime with the help of a few friends and strategies.
I started out by committing to biweekly spin classes with a friend. The dinners post-workout acted as a bonus/reward. This went on for about 9 months. Then, I discovered Ringfit, which enabled me to work out on days I could not make it to spin classes for whatever reason. (This often happened, which led me to lounging around at home. As an introvert, this is my default mode.) And because of my gamer side, who hates to pause in the middle of a ‘mission’, I always end up completing my maps.
Then, when I discovered biweekly workouts weren’t helping my weight, I started exercising three times a week. I have since lost a few kilograms. As you can see, it was a very gradual process.
Starting out small makes goals less intimidating. It makes it easier to incorporate the new habit into your routine. Before you realise it, you will start to feel weird if you haven’t done X at the end of the day.
If you have problems maintaining this, then refer back to point 2.
Finally, there is the overarching ingredient.
When your goals are ‘small’, there are bound to be times where you wonder if they are even worth doing. For example, one of my old goals used to be ‘sing a song’, as a mood-booster. It is a ridiculously small goal, especially since I wasn’t even aiming to improve my singing. But, considering that I was at one of my lowest points in life, anything and everything I did was an achievement.
Over time, I started seeing benefits, such as improved discipline and better moods. With these, it became easier for me to believe in the benefits of working on something slowly, but surely.
Taking on the right perspective will help you derive more pleasure from taking each small step. This will become a cycle of affirmation. Over time, it will all build up and lead you towards the big goal you wanted to achieve.
Edit (23rd August 2020): One other thing that I found helpful was to develop ‘lite’ versions of your new habit. For example, a ‘lite’ version of my typical 45min exercise routine is a quick 10 minute yoga session. These lite versions of the habit you are trying to build and maintain isn’t meant to replace the heavier versions. They are meant to help you maintain the momentum you might lose if you just completely stop the activity altogether. This is especially useful when something pulls you away from your usual routine, such as a vacation, an illness or something incredibly distracting. It also helps with alleviating the guilt from not sticking to your routine.
And now, here I am, at the end of a 1000-word blog post that I managed to churn out within an hour+. The last time I was able to compose something this long (with quality) so smoothly and quickly was years ago. In truth, there are things about my whole journey in this area that I have not articulated yet. When I have the time, perhaps I will revisit this post and flesh out the rest of the pointers.
You know… I thought I had lost my desire to write. As it turns out, I’ve just clearly been writing about the wrong things. Hopefully, this is my first small step (among thousands) to finally finishing that book.
Update: Added in the part about ‘lite actions’.