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Healthy Habit Stacking: How to Create a Routine That Sticks

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Creating and maintaining healthy habits can be challenging, but habit-stacking offers a powerful solution. Habit stacking involves linking new habits to existing ones, making it easier to form and maintain positive behaviours. This method leverages the routines you already have, adding new actions in a seamless, manageable way. By using this technique, you can build a routine that sticks and supports a healthier lifestyle. In this article, we’ll explore how to effectively use habit stacking to develop lasting habits and provide practical tips to get started.

Understanding habit stacking

Habit stacking is based on the idea of attaching a new habit to an existing one. By leveraging the consistency of an established routine, you create a mental association that makes the new habit easier to remember and perform. For example, if you already brush your teeth every morning, you can add a new habit, such as doing five minutes of stretching immediately afterward. This approach simplifies the process of habit formation by building on the structure of your current routines. Understanding this concept is the first step in creating a sustainable habit-stacking strategy.

Start small with manageable habits

When incorporating new habits, it’s crucial to start small. Trying to make too many changes at once can be overwhelming and lead to burnout. Instead, focus on one or two manageable habits that you can easily integrate into your routine. For instance, you could start by focusing on 10 healthy eating habits, like drinking a glass of water before each meal, adding an extra serving of vegetables to your dinner, and other things. These small changes, when stacked onto existing habits, can gradually build up to significant lifestyle improvements. Small, consistent actions are more likely to become permanent parts of your routine.

Identify your anchor habits

Anchor habits are the existing behaviours to which you’ll attach your new habits. These should be activities you do consistently and without fail, such as making coffee in the morning, brushing your teeth, or checking your email. By identifying these anchor habits, you create a stable foundation for your new behaviours. Choose anchor habits that occur at times when it makes sense to add your new habits. For example, if your goal is to start meditating daily, you could attach this to your morning coffee routine, meditating for five minutes while your coffee brews.

Create a habit stack formula

Developing a habit stack formula involves clearly defining the sequence of actions you’ll take. The formula typically follows the structure: “After [existing habit], I will [new habit].” This simple statement helps cement the association between the two behaviours in your mind. For example, “After I brush my teeth, I will do 10 push-ups,” or “After I sit down at my desk, I will write down three things I’m grateful for.” Writing down your habit stack formula reinforces your commitment and provides a clear roadmap for your new routine.

Monitor your development

Keeping an eye on your progress can greatly enhance your motivation and dedication to habit-stacking. Utilise an app, journal, or calendar to track your daily actions and observe how consistently you are practicing your new habits. Tracking your progress over time offers a sense of achievement and encourages continued effort. Moreover, monitoring helps identify patterns or challenges that might be obstructing your success, enabling you to make necessary adjustments to your routine.

Celebrate small achievements 

Celebrating small achievements along the way can keep you motivated and positive. Acknowledge and reward yourself for consistently following through with your new habits, even if the progress seems minor. These celebrations can be simple, such as treating yourself to a favourite snack, enjoying a relaxing activity, or taking a moment to appreciate your efforts. Recognising and celebrating your achievements reinforces positive behaviour and makes the habit-stacking process more enjoyable.

Adjust and refine your habits

As you progress with habit stacking, remain flexible and open to adjusting your habits as needed. Life circumstances and priorities can change, requiring you to tweak your routine. If a particular habit isn’t working or feels too challenging, consider modifying it to make it more manageable or swapping it for a different habit that better fits your current lifestyle. Continuous refinement ensures that your habit stack remains effective and aligned with your goals.

Stay patient and persistent

Building a new routine takes time and persistence. It’s essential to stay patient and not get discouraged if you encounter setbacks or find it challenging to maintain consistency. Understand that forming new habits is a gradual process, and it’s normal to experience ups and downs. Stay committed to your habit-stacking strategy, and remind yourself of the long-term benefits. Over time, your new habits will become second nature, seamlessly integrating into your daily life.

Seek support and accountability

Having support and accountability can significantly enhance your success with habit stacking. Share your goals and progress with friends, family, or a support group. Having someone to encourage you and hold you accountable can provide extra motivation and help you stay on track. Additionally, consider joining online communities or forums where you can connect with others who are also working on building healthy habits. Sharing experiences and tips can provide valuable insights and inspiration.

Takeaway

Healthy habit stacking offers an effective and manageable way to create lasting routines. By starting small, identifying anchor habits, using visual cues, and tracking progress, you can seamlessly integrate new behaviours into your daily life. Celebrate your achievements, adjust as needed, and stay patient and persistent throughout the process. Seeking support and accountability can further enhance your success. Embrace the power of habit stacking to build a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.




Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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