• Dr Missy Wolfman

Little Known Ways to Create Better Habits

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

People often think that seeing a psychologist means spending a lot of time talking about their feelings. Yes, I do talk about feelings with my clients but we also spend a lot of time talking about what they do and don’t do – in other words, their behaviours. Often clients come and say they want to be “happier” which is very subjective, and I work with them to operationalize this word into concrete and observable behaviours. So for example, if I am scoring 7 out of 10 in my happiness level (1 being utterly depressed and 10 being super ecstatic) what would I be doing more of if I were 8 out of 10 in my happiness level? Would I be doing more yoga, singing more, playing more with my children? What would I be doing less if I were slightly happier? Would I be watching less TV, argue or yell at my kids less, or eat less junk food? As you can see, it’s all about what you do or not do. Working on your habits of what you want to do more or less of, can often lead to changes in how you feel. People often get stuck because they think “When I feel better, I will do more of X, Y, Z (run more, eat more fruits and vegetables, socializes more). Unfortunately, often that does not work and only perpetuate the vicious cycle of not feeling so great about yourself. We all get in to this trap, and it’s completely our human nature. The key to not being stuck in this cycle is recognizing that you need to change your behaviour first, in order to feel better. That is, the more that you run, eat more fruits and vegetables, socialize more the more likely that you will feel better and happier about yourself.

So why is it so hard for us to change our behaviour and our habits when we know what we should and why we should do it? Often perfectionism gets in the way. That is, we tend to think “I need to run 5 KM everyday”, or “I need to meditate 20 minutes every day” or “I need to practice 60 minutes of yoga everyday”. These are unrealistic and unachievable goals for most mothers which often lead them to not doing anything at all for their own self-care and happiness. The key to building a sustainable and long-term habit is to set “mini habits”. I learnt about this term and strategy from a book called “Mini Habits” by Stephen Guise. It’s an amazing and invaluable strategy that has been very helpful for me as a mother. Mini habits are extremely small and totally do-able and achievable habits that you set for yourself every day. They are so laughingly do-able and achievable that it would be silly for you not to do it! Some examples of my own daily mini habits are:

· Doing one push up

· Writing one line in my gratitude journal

· Doing one minute of mindfulness exercise

· Eating one piece of fruit

· Reading one sentence in a book

Do you see how they are so easy and totally doable? Research has shown that consistency and repetition is the best way to build a new habit and a new neural pathway in your brain. That is, it’s not as much as the intensity of the new behaviour, but the consistency and frequency of the behaviour that would make it more ingrained and become a habit. For example, I have practiced mindfulness and meditation on and off for the last 8 years but have never been able to maintain a consistent daily mindfulness practice. However, since I have set my mini habit of doing one minute of mindfulness exercise everyday, I have been able to do this for the past four months! Some days I can only manage 2-3 minutes, but other days I do longer such as 10 to 20 minutes. I average 14 minutes of meditation every single day. I can tell you from experience, that I am gaining more benefits from setting a mini habit of 1 minute of mindfulness which I have been doing consistently every day, compared to only practicing mindfulness sporadically (even when I do longer sessions each time).

Setting mini habits for yourself is an easy and powerful way to change your life for the better. Try it for yourself and notice how you are able to consistently stick to your new habits. What are your mini habits of self-care?

Come to an Empowermums workshop and learn all about mini habits! Check out the ‘Upcoming Events’ page now:


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