One of the hardest parts of seeing a physio or exercise physiologist is getting into a regular routine of exercise or changing aspects of our lifestyle. This post is about habits and how we can create them.
We have all heard one of the following statements in regards to forming a habit;
- It takes 30/60 or 120 days to create a habit.
- It takes 10,000 repetitions to create a habit.
However there is a lot more meat to be put on these bones if you really want to be consistent and create change.
Why do we form habits ?
The theory behind this is that some scientists believe that habits form ” because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often”. ref.
Obviously this can be a very positive process if we are trying to form good habits that will benefit our health and wellbeing. These habits can involve activities such as exercise, healthy eating choices, socialising, etc.
The 4 stages of forming a habit.
Stage 1: The CUE.
The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward. This could be as simple as not having back pain or getting back to playing sport again.
Stage 2: The CRAVING.
They are the motivational force behind every habit. There has to be a reason to why you want to change, the stronger the reason the greater the chance of success.
This can be looked at how your current problem is impacting you. What does it mean to you to get back to sport ? or not worry about having a painful low back?
Stage 3: The RESPONSE.
The response is the actual habit you perform. This has to be based on your motivation and also on what you want to achieve. We need a specific plan of action to satisfy the craving and reflect the cue.
Stage 4:The REWARD.
Rewards are the end goal of every habit. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes:
- they satisfy us or a need we have e.g we have stronger back or shoulder or we are able to get back to our sports or hobbies.
- they teach us, i.e we now have the skills to deal with shoulder or back pain so it is no longer a limiting factor.
4 Top tips to create that life changing habit
1. Small, specific actions are more likely to become habitual.
With exercise, for health or rehab, we need to to create a habit. So you tell yourself, “i’m going to get a stronger core / shoulder /knee ”. Unfortunately even though the intention is there it is unlikely to turn into a habit, because it’s too general/vague, and it’s too big.
Whats the solution ?
Break it down into something smaller, more specific and more achieveable e.g
” I’ll do a total of 50 repetitions of one exercise each day for the next 7-10 days”.
If you can manage that then doing 2 exercises becomes very achieveable.
2. Making the action easy to do increases the likelihood that it becomes a habit.
For some reason we seem to believe that the more complex the solution the more effective it will be. This tends to be as far from the truth as you could find.
Whats the solution ?
Keep it simple and it is far more likely you will be consistent in your efforts.
Consistency is the biggest step towards success.
3. Actions that involve physical movement are easier to “condition” into a habit.
Luckily thats what we are trying to achieve most of the time in the clinic. Getting you moving again.
What’s the solution ?
To maximise this factor often exercises that require minimal equipment are best n the beginning as they are easy to do, require no expense and can be done anywhere.
4. What we hear and see impacts our ability to form a habit.
One reason why using your mobile phone is so habitual is that it lights up when you have a message, and makes buzzing or chirping noises when there is a text. These cues grab our attention and increase the likelihood that we will develop a conditioned response.
What’s the solution ?
Use the phone to your advantage. We use an exercise app, physitrak, that reminds you what and when to do your rehab. There are plenty of apps you can research that will help you on yourway.
These are simple solutions to establish life long habits.