Build good habits one baby step at a time

an illustration of healthy habits like strength training and eating well

Whether you are brand new to recovery or many years down the path, building good habits is critical to creating a healthy life free from substance abuse. As anyone who had to come to terms with flossing everyday later in life can tell you, building good habits can be a challenge. It’s amazing to me how bad habits stick like glue, but good habits need to be tied on to us. Maybe there is a symptom of self-destructive behavior right there, but we’ll get to that in another post.

Habit Stacking

Habit stacking is a concept popularized by James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits.” It involves pairing a new habit you want to develop with an existing habit or routine you already have. The idea is to use the established habit as a cue or trigger for the new habit, making it easier to remember and stick to the new behavior. By linking the new habit to something you already do regularly, you can create a more seamless integration of the new habit into your daily life.

Here are some examples of habit stacking:

  1. Morning routine stacking: If you already have a habit of drinking coffee every morning, you can stack a new habit of meditating for 5 minutes right after you start brewing your coffee. The act of brewing coffee becomes the cue to start your meditation.
  2. Exercise stacking: If you have a habit of watching a favorite TV show in the evening, you can stack a new habit of doing 10 push-ups during each commercial break. This way, you can incorporate some physical activity into your existing relaxation time.
  3. Hydration stacking: If you have a habit of checking your email first thing in the morning, you can stack a new habit of drinking a glass of water before you open your inbox. This helps you start your day with hydration.
  4. Learning stacking: If you have a habit of taking a break for lunch every day, you can stack a new habit of reading a book or listening to a podcast related to your interests for 10 minutes during your lunch break. This way, you can incorporate some learning into your daily routine.
  5. Gratitude stacking: If you have a habit of brushing your teeth before bed, you can stack a new habit of thinking of three things you’re grateful for that day while you brush. This can help you end your day on a positive note.

By using habit stacking, you can create a structured approach to building new habits, making it more likely that you’ll stick to them over the long term.

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