Atomic Habits: A Review and Inspiration from Jessica

For the past two years, I have had this desire to take our two dogs on daily walks. Finding the time to squeeze in 30 minutes here and there proved to be daunting, not to mention the fact that they tend to drag me across the pavement with their combined body weight. Even so, it has been this fantastical dream leisurely walk our two pups while dreaming and scheming new ideas or taking the moment to clear my mind.

I made every excuse in the book when it came to making this a daily habit. Weather is too hot, too rainy, too cold. I need to get this done or that done, then the time flies by and those sad puppy dog eyes are still patiently waiting as I run out the door to pick up kids or head into Vessel to teach. I would tell myself that I’d take them first thing in the morning the next day — then I’d get sidetracked with other must-do tasks. Sometimes it’s rather exhausting trying to instill new habits into our already over-booked schedules and routines.

It was during one of my early walks, when the habit was inconsistent but the demand was there due to backyard construction, that I started listening to Atomic Habits by James Clear. Because why not listen to an audiobook about establishing habits when you are, indeed, trying to establish a habit? I took away some great lessons.

Establishing Healthy Habits

This book taught me how to apply a few key principles when trying to establish healthy habits and break the unhealthy ones. It’s important to evaluate what your core values are and whether each healthy habit you are trying to create aligns with those values. Sometimes it’s not the actual habit you are trying to establish, but the result of that habit you are striving to attain. Whether it’s the feeling you get from completing the task or a desired outcome you are trying to achieve, ultimately decide what your “why” and “what” are first.

Once you line out your core values and what particular habit you would like to implement into your daily routine, there are a couple ways you can work to achieve your goal. To create my new habit, walking my dogs daily, I attached that goal (or action) to another already established daily activity. For instance, I attached the action of walking my dogs to the already established activity of dropping my kids off at school. So mentally I know the routine: drop kids off at school then walk my dogs. That way it becomes second nature to have one follow the other.

I am also trying to be more consistent with taking my supplements daily. Atomic Habits mentioned methods that have helped me establish a more regular routine. To make this goal more consistent, I identified obstacles that were standing in the way of achieving my goal and took steps to change them.

To make it easier to take my supplements, I first organized them in a daily supplement case. This kept me from using the excuse that they were not readily available. I then attached it to an already established activity. In this case, I chose to take them while eating a meal. By having them already organized and ready and then creating a routine of taking them during an already established habit, I am able to achieve create a new habit much more easily.

If you desire more structure when establishing a habit, another option is designating a specific time each day you will perform the action. In the scenario of taking your daily supplements, you can set an alarm for the specific time you would like to take them each dail, rather than attaching it to an established activity like eating breakfast like I do. By setting the alarm, you are programming your brain to know at 8:15am each day you are going to take your supplements.

Breaking Unhealthy Habits

I used to drink a glass of red wine each night while cooking dinner as a way to wind down and decompress from the day. It was a habit I was trying to break because of my autoimmune issues, and it which wasn’t an easy task. I love wine! But I realized it was more of the ritual it represented than the actual enjoyment I got from drinking a glass or two.

I first assessed what the habit represented and determined whether it was indeed a glass of wine I enjoyed or the way I felt after drinking it. To me, it was the result rather than the actual act. I felt relaxed, less stressed, and could easily wind down the remainder of the evening. Being a mom to three little ones and a small business owner can leave you highly stressed and overwhelmed, so I needed to find something that could provide me the same “decompressed” feeling that was better for my overall health.

Once I figured out my trigger and found an alternative that helped me achieve the same end result that I enjoyed, I was able to break the habit and implement a better option for my mental and physical health. Now whenever I need some decompressing at the end of each day, I look forward to getting lost in a good book.

Where to get started

Start by writing out your daily established habits and rating them between positive, neutral, and negative. For example, walking my dogs would be rated positive, while brushing my teeth would be considered a neutral habit since we do this daily regardless. Once you map out your daily habits, pick the habits categorized as negative and determine why you do these habits and what your triggers are. From there, find an alternative that will help you swap out the unhealthy habit with the healthier option to result in the same desired feeling or goal.

When you’re trying to implement a new habit, make the result or reward attractive, then either attach it to an already established daily activity or set an alarm to remind yourself to do that desired habit at the same time each day.

Joseph Clear states that habits need to be enjoyable in order for them to stick. So either the process or the end result needs to be something we find joy in. I have personally found this to be true when really wanting consistency. The more we enjoy the process or reward, the more we are likely to be consistent with the healthy habit!

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