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Creating new habits: science and strategy

When it comes to incorporating new behaviours into our lives, we are often full of good intentions but somewhat lacking in the execution department (it is estimated Brits waste a staggering £588million/year on unused gym memberships!).

Whether it’s joining the gym (and actually going!), healthy eating, taking up meditation or spending more time with family, creating new habits can feel like hard work. Yet expert thinkers on the subject maintain that this needn’t be the case – all we need is the right strategy. With this in mind, we have unpicked some of the science behind habits to give you the tools to make turn your intentions into long-lasting action.

  • Start small – instead of 1 hr of cardio at the gym, aim for 15 mins; instead of completely giving up meat, start with going meat free two days a week.
  • Be clear about your purpose – define the reasons why you want to form a new habit and keep reminding yourself of this. This will help you stay motivated.
  • Use “habit stacking.” Link your new habit to an already existing behaviour by filling in this sentence: “After/Before [established habit], I will [new habit].” For example, “After I leave the office, I will go for a brisk walk.”
  • Celebrating your progress is crucial for your motivation. Each time you reward yourself for making progress, no matter how small, you activate the reward circuitry in your brain.
  • Engage those around you – for support and to hold you accountable to your intentions. Don’t be afraid to ask friends/family to check in on your progress.