So, learning a new habit is not so easy after all. In this blog, we explore exactly what habits are, how to develop healthy habits, and how to stick with them, so you can use healthy habits to boost your energy levels.
What are habits?
A habit is an action or a way of acting that you are so used to performing that you stop thinking about it. A kind of integrated pattern of behavior.
Examples of habits:
- Walking, cycling, and driving
- Setting the table for dinner
- Getting up at a certain time
- Drinking water at dinner
- Snacking while watching a movie
How is a habit formed?
Neuroscientists have discovered that habits form through a particular psychological process. They also call this the 'habit loop', and it consists of 3 parts.
- The trigger: this could be, for example, a particular location, emotion, or time of day that makes you want to do something. For example, when you walk through the Albert Heijn and smell freshly baked croissants. Most of us have to make an effort not to throw them in the shopping cart.
- The routine: this is the behavior that follows the trigger, for example, lighting up a cigarette after you saw someone smoking on TV.
- The reward: this is the positive or fulfilled feeling that follows the action. This will cause your brain to repeat the previous steps.
How to create a new habit?
According to James Clear, author of the bestseller “Atomic Habits“, there are 4 laws for learning a new habit. Consider these laws as a tool for turning your ideas into a concrete plan.
- Make it visible. Write down your end goal and intermediate goals, and track their progress. Ideally, hang this information somewhere in plain sight so you can't avoid it. Another example, when you want to start drinking more water, put glasses in several places.
- Make it fun. If it's not fun, it becomes harder and harder to stick with it. Therefore, pay close attention to how you talk about your goals. You “should” not drink more water, you “want” or “will” drink more water. That already sounds a lot more motivated!
- Make it easy. Make sure you always have a glass, carry a water bottle, and possibly have fruit or another condiment with you. Make it as approachable as possible to maintain your habit. That way, you are more likely to be successful.
- Make it satisfying. Make sure you give yourself a reward for performing the action. This allows your brain to link this pleasurable feeling to the previous action and you use the habit loop to your advantage.
By the way, Clear says it takes a while for that new routine to become a habit . On average, it takes about 66 days.
The most interesting discovery is that missing one day had no negative effect on forming a habit. So it's not about perfection, it's about consistency and being able to recover when things don't work out for a change.
What are 'Healthy' and 'Unhealthy' habits?
Healthy habits energize you and promote mental health. Maybe not from day 1, but in the long run they improve your concentration, memory, and mood, which makes you happier.
Unhealthy habits have exactly the opposite effect. They will create a mental battle between multiple thoughts. You may want to crave that fresh croissant, but you also want to lose weight at the same time. It makes you feel unpleasant.
How to break bad habits?
You can only break a habit if you are aware of the three points of the habit loop we talked about earlier.
In short, you need to find out who or what triggers you to perform the habit and what reward causes you to maintain the habit. Only when you know this, you will succeed in stopping or changing the habit.
Charles Duhigg, author of the book “The power of habit”, explains how this works in a video of just over three minutes:
These 5 healthy habits will give you energy
Just as FIRST gives you extra energy, healthy habits can also take your energy levels to new heights! Here are five habits you can implement right away to go through life more energetic.
1. Go for a 30-minute walk every day
Exercise is important for both your physical and mental health. Yet you may find that you don't move sufficiently because you work in an office all day.
According to the nutrition center, you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate or high-intensity exercise per week, spread over several days. At least! More exercise is obviously better. By walking for half an hour every day, you've already ticked off the minimum.
“How do I keep this up?”
There are some aspects that make it easier to give up, such as:
- Poor weather
- A busy schedule
- Not in the mood
Preparation is half the battle
- You have no control over the weather, but you can do a great job preparing for it. For example, make sure you have a winter-proof outfit. Prepare your umbrella and raincoat too.
- If you have a busy schedule, put that 30-minute walk in your calendar. You may also want to combine it with a call to a client or colleague.
- When you combine your walk with listening to your favorite podcast or audiobook, or rewarding yourself with a hot cup of tea after your walk, you immediately use the habit loop to your advantage.
Recording your walks and sharing them with others also gives you an instant push. Useful apps for this include 'Strava' and the well-known 'Ommetje'.
2. Drink 2 liters of water every day
Everyone knows that drinking enough water is good for your health. But are you drinking enough? According to the nutrition center, adults should drink at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day. It seems like a lot, but the day is long!
Add it to an existing routine
It is still an abstract goal. So make it easier by adding drinking water to an existing routine.
A good doable example of this:
Every time you pick up a plate or a bowl, also immediately fill a glass with water. That way, you'll always drink a glass of water with your meals and you can easily already drink a liter daily.
Tips to drink more water
- Keep track of exactly how much water you've already drunk. You can do this through an app, or you can just write it down the old-fashioned way and tick it off.
- Invest in a water mug, both for at home and on the go. It doesn't have to be pretty, but it does have to be ultra practical.
- Drink flavored water. Honestly, sometimes you get tired of tap water or maybe you don't like it at all. Fortunately, these days you can find all kinds of alternatives or just pop some fruit into your mug yourself for some extra flavor.
- Drink water at room temperature or warmer. Your body absorbs that better and you can drink it easier than ice-cold water anyway.
3. Create a morning routine
“A good start is half the battle”. Of course, that goes for your day as well. That's why a morning routine is one of the better habits to start with.
What is a morning routine?
It is basically nothing more than a collection of sequential actions that you repeat daily. They make you feel happier, more successful, and start your day with fresh energy. So the perfect kickstart to your day!
The do's and dont's of a morning routine
DO: add elements to your morning routine that make you feel good and contribute to becoming a better version of yourself. Such as:
- Exercise: walk those 30 minutes first thing in the morning
- Personal care: showering, brushing teeth, skincare routine, getting dressed
- Reading and learning: challenge yourself to read 10 pages every day from a self-development book, for example.
- Breakfast: take good care of your body by preparing a nutritious breakfast to eat quietly (with water with it, of course!)
DON'T: Snooze! It has long been proven that this only works contradictory. Among other things, it increases stress and your concentration deteriorates.
It's also better to avoid scrolling through Instagram and TikTok or answering emails and apps. Rather, focus on yourself and your own priorities first.
4. Go offline more often
It's an unhealthy habit that almost all of us have. Constantly being online and checking for a message at every vibration. You probably know someone who is also scrolling through their Insta-feed, while having a conversation or in company. To avoid this, it is good to go offline every once in a while.
What are the benefits of being offline?
- You have a lot more free time. Time you can spend on people or things you actually find more important.
- It's good for your self-image and mental health. Social media is full of “perfect” moments. It's not illogical to compare yourself to them. By going offline, you have time to put yourself in perspective and better see how you are.
- It's good for your eyes. Okay, apparently it doesn't make them square anyway. But staring at a screen all day is anything but healthy.
- It makes you sleep better. If you are not on your phone at night, you will no longer be bothered by the blue light from your phone screen that inhibits the production of melatonin and disrupts your biological clock.
- You get rid of your addiction. Don't know what to do if you were to turn off your phone? Then you're probably addicted. It's smart to turn off your phone from time to time.
- You get more energy from it. Because you get better rest and let your brain think for itself again.
How do you tackle this?
You can turn off your phone, of course, but for most that immediately triggers “Yes but....” feelings. So start with low-threshold adjustments and slowly make them bigger:
- Turn off all notifications. You don't have to be reachable 24/7
- Set phone-free moments. For example, during your morning routine.
- Set a daily limit for apps you use a lot.
- Download an app that makes your phone temporarily unusable. For example, growing trees in the Forest app.
- Choose one day a week when you leave your phone off.
5. Start journaling
We are generally quite busy. Therefore, it is wise to also take a moment for some personal time and put your ideas, plans, and thoughts on paper. Start journaling!
What is journaling?
Journaling is keeping a kind of journal. You can write down your thoughts and ideas, as well as create to-do lists and habit trackers. It's a way to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. You can almost think of it as a type of therapy and a form of creative expression. Your journal is personal and you make it however you want.
Why is journaling good for you?
- It reduces stress as you create clarity in your mind by putting that tornado of thoughts on paper.
- It provides new insights into your emotions and behaviors, creating more awareness.
- It gives you more energy as it reduces stress and unpleasant emotions and makes room for clarity and positivity.
- It creates a positive mindset because you can write off negative thoughts and focus on what is going well.
- It makes you more creative.
- You get to know yourself better. By writing about it, you can find out what you do, why you do it, and how it makes you feel.
How to get started with journaling?
To get started, all you really need is a notebook and a pen. Think about the purpose when you start writing and what you want to keep track of. For example, you can write down what went right or wrong that day, what you are grateful for, what bothers you or what you have done.
This can be tricky. But remember, there is no right or wrong. Start by writing down your first thought, often, more will follow naturally. If you need inspiration, you can always start with an open-ended question or find inspiration on Pinterest, for example.
How to make journaling a habit?
Agree with yourself to write in your journal for a few minutes at a certain time. You can integrate it into your morning routine, for example.
Determine how long and what you want to write about. Then put this in your calendar every day. At some point, it will feel “wrong” to get into bed without first putting your thoughts on paper.
Learn more about habits
It remains a fascinating topic! Fortunately, a lot is being written and talked about. If you want to learn more about habits, we have a few reading and listening tips for you:
- The book “Atomic Habits“, by James Clear
- The book “The power of habits“, by Charles Duhigg
- The podcast episode “Grip Your Attention“, from BNR Radio
- The book “Tiny Habits“, by BJ Fogg
- The podcast “The habit coach“, by Ashwin Doctor
- The podcast episode “Customs Change“, from The Podcast Psychologist
The only way to get to Day 500 is to start with Day 1. Forget about the number and focus on doing the work.
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