Time to get a micro habit and stop the damaging pattern

While changing a well-formed habit may sound daunting, instilling small, incremental changes can make life a lot easier
Time to get a micro habit and stop the damaging pattern

Our thoughts can make us sick. Ask author and neuroscience researcher Dr Joe Dispenza. “Our thoughts are a redundant set of automatic, unconscious behaviours and emotions, acquired through repetition; 95 per cent of who we are by age 35 is a memorised set of emotional reactions, behaviours, hardwired attitudes, beliefs and perceptions that function like a computer programme, leaving just 5 per cent of our responses to the conscious mind,” he says.

Given the odds, creating a new habit can be daunting. If you don’t know where to start, start small. And that’s where micro habits come in. These are easier to achieve and maintain, give you a sense of control and accomplishment, and are a great way of fostering discipline and enforcing consistency to break the self-reinforcing habit loop.

Flip the Switch
Transforming a well-formed habit is challenging, but Gurugram-based psychotherapist Juhi Pradhan says micro habits let you flip the ‘autonomic switch’––automated habits formed through repetition ––enabling you to switch to new habits faster. “Micro habits can be introduced in a few seconds. They don't require much contemplation. Once you have taken the first step towards a habit, a new neural loop or pathway is formed in the brain.

These pathways comprise neurons connected by dendrites in the brain and are responsible for habit formation. The dendrites multiply with the frequency of an input (thoughts and actions based on stimuli), automating it. It is for this reason that once a habit is fortified, it becomes difficult to break it,” she says. Micro habits, on the other hand, are an easy way to break this loop by focusing on small, incremental changes in behaviour rather than starting with big plans and goals, and giving up halfway because it was too much to handle.

The 1 percent rule
Delhi-based author, life coach and motivational speaker Deepak Khound, who is a proponent of micro habits, extols the benefits of the 1 percent rule. “Inspired by British cycling coach Sir David Brailsford’s 1 percent improvement theory, your success or failure today is directly proportional to all the small decisions you’ve taken in your life. That mere 1 percent compounds into massive gains,” he says. Take, for instance, writing a book. Some find the thought of writing formidable enough to never get started.

Follow the 1 percent rule by focusing on just one aspect of book writing––reading, ideating, researching, creating the outline, setting a daily word count, weekly deadlines or creating a comfortable space—and then dedicate 30 minutes a day to just that one pursuit rather than trying to do it all together. It’s the same with losing weight. For most people, weight loss begins today and ends tomorrow because they set impossible goals and fail miserably.

Start slowly by introducing one healthy habit into your routine every day––an early morning stretch, an extra glass of water, walking for five minutes longer than the previous day, and before you know it, you’d be in a much better position to undertake
a full workout.

Habit stacking or pairing
Sandwich new micro habits between existing ones. For instance, if you want to be more active, but forget each time, sandwich a small dose of activity such as stretching, five-minute yoga, or a set of jumping jacks or pushups between two well-formed habits such as drinking coffee and taking a shower.

As you put the coffee pot to brew, do a quick exercise routine before jumping into the shower. This way, every time you drink coffee, you’ll be reminded of staying active.

If you want to relax more, stack a five-minute meditation before breakfast. So when you have breakfast, you’ll be reminded of meditating beforehand. If you wish to be more grateful, stack it with your meals, which is a well-formed habit.

Think of all the things you’re grateful for as you fill your plate with food. Similarly, every time you fix yourself a drink, gulp down a glass of water before that–– a habit to avoid painful hangovers. In short, habit stacking helps build routines, which in turn provides structure to your day, reducing cognitive overload, as the brain then has fewer things
to remember.

Reward yourself the right way
People mistake rewards for indulgence. In most instances, the rewards are counterproductive. For instance, a piece of brownie is not constructive for those on a weight-loss journey. Sunday binges are not compensation for sticking to your diet.

Also, get rid of the ‘cheat day’ mentality. You do not have to cheat on anything to form productive habits. The right kind of rewards act as positive reinforcements, such as taking a restorative nap, reading a new book, listening to your favourite music or podcast or playing with your pet.

Every bit of success matters
Be your foremost cheerleader. Celebrate small wins. Even a 60-second self-appreciation talk, a quick pat on the back or embracing the accomplishment mindfully is enough. “Other ways are by sharing these victories with like-minded people, practising gratitude and keeping time aside for yourself. Every little celebration induces happiness by releasing dopamine in the body. You want to get as much of this feel-good chemical as you can,” says Khound.

What is a micro habit?

Tiny habits that are easier to achieve and maintain.

These can be undertaken in 60 seconds or less.

As they aren’t time-consuming, micro habits are easy to incorporate into your routine

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The New Indian Express