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Habit Stacking

Author: DR PAULA ROBERTSON, MBBS, FRCPCH PAEDIATRICIAN

Building a new habit one step at a time

Full disclosure…I am a recovering perfectionist and procrastinator, so I understand that it’s easy to get ‘stuck’ sometimes waiting for the perfect or right time, moment, skill etc. I am also one to start the New Year with lots of ambitious resolutions then find that they fizzle out after a few months.

So how can we make new habits stick? I love the concept of habit stacking by James Clear in his book: “atomic habits: an easy and proven way to build good habits & break bad ones.” In it he talks about the concept of building a habit one step at a time, rather than making a resolution. It starts by trying to be just 1% better every day. If for example you want to cut out sugar in your diet, just start by cutting just half a teaspoon a day, and gradually increase the amount. Taking small steps towards an end goal adds up over time. The point is to develop habits and stick to them – not to do them perfectly.

The concept of habit stacking is this:

If you already have an established habit, you just stack another new one on top of it. Let’s say you want to lose weight by planning to get up early at 5 am, do a full workout, meditate and then eat a healthy breakfast. Taken altogether, this seems a lot and we may give up after a few days when we don’t do it consistently. But what if all we currently do is get up at 5 am, maybe to go on our phones to check emails? Our stacked habit approach could be: Wake at 5am, then layer on 5 minutes of meditation before checking our phones. Once we have this in place we could add in a morning walk or exercise routine, maybe for 15 minutes then build up slowly. Finally we layer on our healthy power breakfast. Now not every day will go perfectly…the key is just to show up each day and do it. Bear in mind we’re aiming to be just a little bit better each day, but to do so consistently…and it builds up over time into a powerful new habit!

Be well,

Paula

Dr Paula Robertson is a mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years’ experience working with children, young people and their families. www.paulathedoctormom.com

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