At Made2Move, we’re big believers in the power of creating healthy, enjoyable, and sustainable habits. There’s 1,000 books on the market that promise to give us the ULTIMATE SECRET to create lasting behavior change. But here’s the truth: there is that nothing this blog, a book, or a podcast can tell you is going to create lasting behavior change.
These resources are amazing and can surely give you tools, cues, and tricks to make habits easier, but it is ultimately up to you to stick with them. We delved into the research to figure out what things truly aid in creating lasting habits, and the three most helpful tricks we found are outlined below. Try to view these tricks as tools to help you create a new habit, as opposed to “life changing hacks” that will help solve all of your problems.
MACRO-GOALS and MICRO-GOALS
Here at Made2Move we always like to emphasize the definition of a goal or outcome to strive for. This is one of the “Big 3” we have found that helps make new behaviors stick!
Start by defining your macro or “big picture” goal. Figure out your “why.” Then use micro goals each day to make the macro goal a reality. Want to get stronger? Want to become more organized? Want to eat healthier? These would be macro (large) goals. Now that we know our macro goal, we could define the micro (small) goals that would help us achieve and sustain this macro goal.
For getting stronger, micro-goals could include dialing into your nutrition, lifting heavier weights, taking more rest days so your muscles can recover, or hiring a weightlifting coach. For eating healthier, micro-goals could look like eating more vegetables, eating less processed foods, or working 1-on-1 with a dietitian.
A very important piece of this puzzle is that once you outline your micro goals, start by tackling just one micro goal at a time. Don’t try to make too many big changes at once.
NY Times bestselling author, James Clear, defines habit stacking as simply: “identifying a current habit you already do each day and then stacking your new behavior on top.” Habit stacking involves utilizing your already ingrained habits as “triggers” to help develop new ones.
For example, you want to develop a new habit of meditating or drinking more water. Do you drink coffee every morning? This could be the trigger that allows you to habit stack and start building your new habit of meditation or hydration.
Habit stacking looks like: “After/before I do (CURRENT HABIT), I will (NEW HABIT). So for the above example, “After/Before (I drink coffee), I will (drink a glass of water or meditate for 5 minutes).
James Clear notes that “the reason habit stacking works so well is that your current habits are already built into your brain. You have patterns and behaviors that have been strengthened over years. By linking your new habits to a cycle that is already built into your brain, you make it more likely that you'll stick to the new behavior.”
There are many numbers out there that people claim is the magic number needed to create a habit. 3 weeks, 3 months, 1year? How long does it really take to build a new habit? Research from Dr. Lally and her team of researchers at University College London set out to answer this question in 2009. The study monitored the habits of 96 people for 12 weeks, asking them to adopt a new habit during this 12 week period. Participants chose habits such as running or drinking more water and were asked to record how often they did the new behavior, as well as at what point the new behavior began to feel automatic. The study found that “automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days; indicating considerable variation in how long it takes people to reach their limit of automaticity and highlighting that it can take a very long time” (Lally et. al 2009).
James Clear reports on this study in his blog, How Long Does It Take To Form A New Habit that, “On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally's study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.”
Lally’s study also found that “slip ups'' did not have a substantial effect on long term habit formation. For example, if you are trying to develop a habit to eat healthier but have one night where you ate pizza and ice cream, that is OK! Recognizing that your new habit is going to take time to build can help you keep working towards your goal after a purported “slip up.”
Here at Made2Move, we view the adoption of healthy habits as a vital piece of the puzzle that is physical therapy. We can give you all the exercises to do once a week in your therapy session, but if you do not habitually adopt these exercises into the rest of the week, on top of other healthy habits like sleep, hydration, and nutrition, then your healing may be blunted. Using the three tricks, 1- micro and macro goals, 2-habit stacking, and 3- being patient, can help you develop lasting habits. Questions about habit formation, rehab, performance, or injury prevention? Our therapists are here at all 4 of our locations to help! Reach out to email@example.com today.