Celebration makes the habit stick

This is the time of year many of us are trying to add good or healthy habits to our lives such as get in better shape, lose weight, eat healthier, read books, and on and on and on. Some of us may be working to eliminate bad habits like smoking or eating junk foods.

I think we have all been told by the experts to do something for 28 days to make it become a habit. Whenever I added a new habit to my routine, I would chart it for 28 days and then assume that it was good to go. Unfortunately, I found that was really a hit or miss process. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. The reality is that with just pure repetition it can take 3 to 6 months for your new task to become the habitual routine hoped for.

As I was researching habits a few years ago I was fortunate enough to come across a book entitled Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, PhD. His unique research into human behavior discovered the most powerful predictor of whether we will continue to do a habit is how we feel about it. He also discovered that if we celebrate at three precise times while we are engaging in the habit, it has a strong psychological drive that will prompt us to want to do it again. A positive motivator or brain hack if you will. When BJ talks about celebrating he is talking about generating a feeling that is hard to describe although we have all felt it. It is very positive and internally motivating. We have seen those kinds of celebrations when a football player makes a touchdown, or a basketball player makes a 3 pointer at the buzzer, or a golfer sinks a long putt. BJ Fogg calls it SHINE. It amounts to causing yourself to feel really good or SHINE on the inside after your successes.

When it comes to doing habits there are three times we can celebrate our success. First when we remember to do the habit, second when or while we are doing the habit, and finally when we are finished doing the habit. Stated more succinctly before, during, and after your habit.

I did that process with this blog. I celebrated the reminder to write it, I celebrated and positive self-talked myself through it, and celebrated at the end. I can’t wait to write the next one!

For me, the difficult one is the exercise habit. When I first think of exercising or am reminded to exercise, I celebrate with a Tiger Woods-like fist pump and a comment like, “Yeah, let’s rock” or with one of my favorites, “That’s a victory and you’re a winner.” Yesterday, “You’re an awesome possum today” popped out after lifting weights. I giggled. During exercise I celebrate and encourage myself with positive self-talk and when I finish, I celebrate again and congratulate myself. Does it work? I never would do cardio no matter how much I worked out. I hated cardio. For me It was always weights or HIIT workouts. Since I have been using BJ’s celebration techniques, I have been happily doing cardio for over a month and look forward to it as much as the weights now.

The key is the good feeling or SHINE which sends dopamine into our system. Our system likes dopamine and remembers how it got it so it can do it again to get more dopamine. Repetition and celebration at all stages is important for us to want to do the new task until it becomes an engrained habit. Remember to celebrate and create good feelings to make habits stick.

Happy Trails! Start celebrating today!

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