Many of us are still thinking about making New Years' resolutions. You know the ones that we try and make every year; to exercise more, eat healthier, spend more time out in nature (like at the beach if you're in Jupiter, maybe the mountains or fields elsewhere), lose weight, spend less time on social media, see a therapist and work on yourself, spend more time with friends and family or give up smoking. Sound familiar?
It is all well and good to make these New Years' resolutions adding something positive to our lives or stopping the negative, but how do we be consistent and stay with our resolutions? James Clear in the book Atomic Habits talks about “temptation bundling” and provides an interesting story to illustrate the point.
In 2014-2015 Andrew Kubitz, head of scheduling for ABC, branded Thursday night TV as “TGIT on ABC” encouraging people to make popcorn, drink red wine, and enjoy their evening while watching Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. Essentially ABC got viewers to do the thing they needed to do. Watch the show, with activities viewers enjoyed - to relax and be entertained while drinking wine and eating popcorn. In fact, James Clear goes into this phenomenon more in his blog Eventually, people started associating 8 pm on a Thursday with relaxation and entertainment. What a very clever idea, which in the end can help us to stick with our resolutions longer than the average 39 days.
So how does this work on wanting to change and stick with a habit? Remember the last blog where we spoke about habit stacking, which is where you add a habit onto the one you are already doing, such as making coffee and then meditating for one minute? Well, temptation bundling is after you meditate for one minute (a habit I need) then you engage in a habit that you want to do such as looking at your social media.
Remember we want to make the new habit attractive so that it becomes habit-forming. The key is to pair something that you want to do, with something that you need to do. For example, you need to exercise, but want to want to watch your favorite show on Netflix. Therefore, you would exercise and then watch Netflix. Maybe you need to do the exercises your therapist recommended for you to improve, but you want to catch up on your social media feed. Then you should do the exercises, then catch up on social media.
When trying to form a habit, one of the most effective ways, according to James Clear, is to surround yourself with like-minded people. Let's say you want to start playing music, if you surround yourself with musicians who play all of the time, then you are more than likely going to want to practice regularly because it becomes the norm of the culture.
I remember growing up in England and I was surrounded by people who smoked. There were a small handful of people that did not smoke, so my habit became my norm because “everyone was doing it”. When I moved to America, I found myself surrounded by people who did not smoke. The impact on my smoking habit? Giving up smoking became more manageable because it was no longer the norm. In fact, if in a session you talk about a habit you're struggling with, a therapist may ask about the people you surround yourself with.
"Giving up smoking was more manageable, because it was no longer the norm (with my friend group)." – Sharron Frederick
Now, let us talk about cravings and making them unattractive. According to James Clear, a craving is something that we are missing at that moment in time. We desire to change our internal state. Think about it, when reaching for a cigarette, you may associate it with positive feelings like lowering anxiety and relaxation. Going on social media has created a positive craving of feeling connected to other people.
So how do we make these cravings unattractive? When we are feeling anxious and want to relax, go out for a walk before reaching for that cigarette. Wanting to scroll on social media for hours on end, before you do call a friend or connect with family members and then go on social media. Do something before you want to engage in your craving. Therapists use this principle to help clients make destructive habits unappealing while making positive associations with budding healthy habits.
Another suggestion is changing the way you think about things. Maybe you planned to go running out by the beach in Jupiter, but feel like it's a drag and end up skipping out half the time. Well, according to James Clear, you shouldn't see exercise as time-consuming or tiring. Instead, look at it as gaining strength, or building endurance. Finances and saving money are associated with “making a sacrifice”, but instead change the thought to financial freedom. Do you get anxious before a test, talking in public, or having to talk to your boss? Instead of focusing on anxiety and saying “I'm nervous” think “the adrenaline that I am exercising is helping me focus”.
James Clear's 2nd law in Atomic Habits can be a powerful tool in creating healthy habits while shedding destructive ones. Do you live in the Jupiter area and feel ready to put this law to work in your life? Then consider Clarity Health Solutions. We're a group of licensed and experienced therapists in Jupiter, FL. Passionate about supporting people and teaching them skills to empower their growth.
Give us a call at 561-781-3333 today or contact us at clarityhealthfl.com.