2020 has taught us some valuable lessons things. Like the importance of exact measurements when baking, and that many of us have thumbs that are greener than we thought. This disrupted, disruptive year also taught us that positive habits are packed with happy power – and that it’s often easier said than done.
If you decided to make positive changes to your life this year, you’ve probably realised that it can be challenging. Still, the process is worth it because the rewards far outweigh the challenge. Positive habits can help cultivate and reinforce positive thinking in our daily lives and form a foundation on which we can achieve our goals.
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The Anatomy Of A Habit
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg wrote that habits are governed by a neurological pattern he calls a ‘habit loop’. The loop is comprised of a cue, a route, and a reward.
The cue is the trigger that prompts the brain to automatically select a habit, whether it’s an emotional, mental, or physical routine. The routine is followed by the reward, which the brain uses to determine whether that loop should be used again. According to Duhigg, the neurological intertwining of the cue and reward lasts for as long as it takes for a craving to develop.
Duhigg goes on to say that, if you want to replace bad habits with positive ones, you need to follow the golden rule of habit change. This sees you keep the cue, replace the negative route with something positive, and keep the reward.
Whether you’re trying to change negative habits or you’re simply trying to cultivate positive habits, you’ll need to apply a significant amount of willpower. It also helps to find ways to support your decision.
Positive Habits – A Closer Look
Clearly, habits are powerful, whether it’s for better or for worse, as they have a strong effect on our automatic behaviour. The good ones can help us to stay focused, buoyed up by happiness. The bad ones, on the other hand, can keep us in a negative headspace and prevent us from succeeding altogether.
It’s easy to see why Farnam Street described habits as “algorithms operating in the background that power our lives”. To illustrate the relationship between positive habits and goals, the publication gave the example of someone who wants to read more books. They can set a goal of reading 50 books by New Year’s Eve, or they can cultivate the habit of taking a book wherever they go.
If you’ve ever tried getting up an hour earlier to meditate every day, you’ll know how frustratingly difficult it can be. However, once you’ve managed to form those habits, they start working automatically.
You start waking up naturally an hour earlier and you gradually meditate for longer and longer periods. Sooner or later, you realise that what was difficult has become easy, and it’s all thanks to the power of habit.
The Power of Habits for Success
According to Farnam Street, our habits can be powerful enough to see us go beyond our goals. For example, you set a goal of writing a 50,000-word novel, and to do it, you decide to cultivate the habit of writing 200 words per day for 250 days.
On some days, however, you may find that the inspiration keeps coming and that your fingers are flying across the keyboard. Before you know it, what was going to be a regular 200-word writing session saw you write 1,000 words. This ultimately could lead to you achieving your goal in less time than planned.
Achieving goals, whether they’re personal, inter-personal or business-oriented, are largely linked to positive habits. So much so that Forbes magazine identified 10 habits that highly successful entrepreneurs, high profile investors and billionaires have in common:
- They read
- They get enough sleep
- They’re careful with managing money
- They exercise
- They make sure they have time for relaxation
- They set defined goals
- They focus on tasks with the highest value
- They build networks constantly
- They create routines that support success
- They seek to fail because it means they’re striving for more
Cultivating Positive Habits
Given all this, we think that cultivating positive habits in your day-to-day life is pretty powerful. Not sure where to begin? Start off with one or all of these habitual actions and see what effects they have in your life:
- Start with a habit that is too small to refuse, such as repeating one positive affirmation to yourself in front of the mirror for a minute. It’s easy to say “No, not today” to a big, new habit, and it’s easier to say “Yes” to something you know you can do with next to no effort. You can then build or expand your habit.
- Count your blessings by acknowledging something positive every day. One way of doing this is to write down something that you’re grateful before you go to bed. Alternatively, share your daily gratitude with your partner.
- Meditate daily. Innumerable studies have shown that meditation has beneficial effects on mind and body. Improved mindfulness, a greater sense of purpose, and a more positive outlook are some of those effects, so try to meditate for at least two minutes every day. You can work at expanding your meditation time once you’ve formed the habit.
- Create or seek out positive, stress-free environments. If you’re trying to improve your self-confidence, but you spend all your time with people who drag you down, you’re going to find it difficult to succeed. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits recommends spending time with people who have the habits you want to cultivate and finding a supportive online community. He also recommends reading books and blogs that encourage you to develop those habits, put reminders of your aims around you, and finding an accountability partner with whom to have daily check-ins.
We can make habits, break them, and then re-make them into something good. Cultivate positive habits and charge your life with their happy power!