So you’ve set up some goals and habits but are you having a hard time making them stick? Have you ever heard of habit stacking? It’s an easy way to create new habits that actually stick – so you continue doing them long-term.
Before we can talk about habit stacking, we need to talk a minute about synaptic pruning? If you remember from high school biology, synapses are simply connections between the neurons (which are brain cells). So basically your brain prunes away connections between neurons that aren’t used to build up those connections that are used more often.
Let’s say you are a musician and play the guitar. If you’ve been playing for 5 – 10 years, then your brain has strengthened the connections between the musical neurons. The more you play, the stronger the connections become. Plus, the connections get faster and improve in efficiency every time you play. So then your skills improve, it’s easier, and the quality of your music is so much better than when you first began, right? (Thank goodness say all the moms out there!
But if you don’t play the guitar, those musical connections in your brain are not being strengthened. So your brain prunes away those unused connections and builds up connections for other things you are focusing on.
That’s one reason a young child isn’t as proficient as an adult. The child doesn’t have those connections yet even though there are many possibilities of connections. But adults have pruned away many connections while improving strong connections in the things they are good at doing.
So how does all this relate to habit stacking?
B.J. Fogg wrote an interesting book called Tiny Habits in which he explains habit stacking as a useful tool to develop new habits. Every habit you build does so because of synaptic pruning. The more you do something, the more efficient the connections. And what are habits? Basically something you do so often you do almost without thinking about it.
You already have many strong habits you do each day, right? Things your brain remembers to do almost automatically. Things like:
Taking a shower every morning or at night before bed
Making coffee or tea each morning
Brushing your teeth after meals
So you can take advantage of those strong connections and habits you have already established to build new habits.
We use the connection of behavior when building new habits. All you have to do is identify a current habit you do each day and then just stack (or add) your new behavior on top. So think of a strong habit you do each day. This will be your CUE to then do the new habit.
It’s easy. Use this phrase: “After _____________ (current habit), I will _____________ (new habit).”
Here are some ideas:
After I pour my cup of coffee in the morning, I will meditate or pray for one minute.
After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes.
After I eat dinner, I will immediately go brush my teeth (to decrease cravings or eating dessert late at night).
After I set out my coffee mug, I will also set out an empty glass (to remind me to drink water in the morning as the coffee is brewed).
See how simple that is?
Remember, your current habits are already built into your brain. So just add a new one onto that one. Those patterns and behaviors already strengthened will be the link between the old and the new habit. This increases the odds you will stick to your new habit.
Hope that was helpful. It’s been beneficial for me and also my private clients to just make simple and easy baby steps when trying to improve health in a “happier and gentler” way. And if you have health issues like autoimmune or digestive issues or are a busy person (and who isn’t?), setting simple habits with baby steps makes life a little easier, right?
And speaking of habits – If you’d like to learn some more small steps to help you decrease fatigue, belly bloat, and pain and increase your healthy habits this year, contact me here for a free discovery call. We can talk and see if we’d be a good fit to work together to help you be all you were created to be.
Leah Cheshire, MCD,CCC-SLP, NBC-HWC, is a national board certified health and wellness coach and a speech-language pathologist who works primarily with women who have fatigue, brain fog, weight issues, digestive issues, and autoimmune problems using small steps through nutritional and lifestyle modifications.