We’re often told that changing our lives requires doing something drastic, but what if we could achieve the same results by refining smaller aspects of our daily routines? Well, a study published by Duke University found that over 40 percent of our actions are rooted in habit as opposed to explicit decisions. In other words, our system of repetitive practices governs a very major and consistent chunk of our lives as opposed to just isolated resolutions. So, how can we develop the best habits for a happier school year and lifestyle?
- Take it One Step at a Time: the Beginning is the Hardest Part.
As James Clear wrote in his book “Atomic Habits,” “time magnifies the margin between success & failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it.” Starting with a 1% change for the better compounds over time into lifestyle transformations.Setting an enormous goal to “be a more organized person” or “be a super healthy person” is like setting yourself up to be disappointed because your brain is wired by precedents and repeated patterns. For example, if you’re used to drinking a cup of coffee every morning, you will begin to depend on that kick of caffeine to function. You can’t just cut yourself off on a whim and expect your body to accept it. Instead, you might try to reduce the dose gradually until your body can function without it. Expectations must be tailored to your starting point. If you want to get more organized, begin by purchasing a planner. Start with something manageable or harder to make an excuse for, like a 10 minute walk outside if you want to become a healthier person. These small acts can become the gateway to larger changes.
- Small Victories: Make Your New Habit More Immediately Rewarding.
It’s a long game to build good habits, so it can get discouraging when you’ve not seen desired results within the first fews days or even weeks. You might revert back to using your time scrolling through social media or eating junk food instead of working out because it provides you with more instant gratification. This is one of the problems I ran into while starting fitness Youtuber Chloe Ting’s popular 2 Week Shred Challenge earlier during quarantine. Being a couch potato was a lot more desirable than burning my muscles and breaking a sweat until I began rewarding myself with some Netflix post-workout. (It seems counterintuitive to building a healthier life, but it’s useful to give yourself a few wins at least until the activity becomes a more intuitive part of your schedule and rewarding in itself).
- Make the Start of the New School Year a Time of Change.
While you shouldn’t always wait for the next big event or random burst of motivation to strike to begin crafting a habit, there’s no denying their efficacy in catalyzing change. This is a great time to get back into the swing of things because we’re not only starting fresh, but we also have a more fixed schedule to mold our lives around.
Bullet-point a couple changes you want to make to your life, and hold yourself accountable. With good discipline and incentives, this could be the start of your most productive and healthy school year yet!