Sarah’s Rap: When Melissa and I embarked on our month of posts related to forming and keeping good habits, Melissa recommended this book to me: “Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life” by Gretchen Rubin. At first I wondered how someone could make a whole book about forming habits. Don’t I just commit to making them and try my hardest to stick with it? Well, I trust Melissa’s book reviews as she’s never steered me wrong and I found another of Gretchen’s books (“The Happiness Project”) packed full of helpful advice, so I gave it a try.
This book is chock full of great research on a variety of topics which impact our abilities to form habits and keep them, including personalities, motivators, scheduling strategies, accountability, monitoring, challenges and more. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in forming new healthy habits. By understanding more about the habit-forming beast, we can more easily tame it!
One of the first nuggets of wisdom I got from this book was that forming habits takes willpower. With repetition and perseverance, the action will become routine and no longer requires willpower to do it – that’s when it becomes a habit. That seemed like a no- brainer to me before, as anyone that has tried to make a new habit can attest to it requiring willpower. However, I often stop doing something that I want to make a regular habit because it’s just too much work to always make myself have to do it. That willpower required to form the habit would abandon me and another year would pass before I’d go through the same cycle. But now when I feel my willpower being tested, I acknowledge it and know that it is necessary in the process of forming the habit. Now that feeling of willpower trying to kick in motivates me to push through and keep working towards making my healthy habits.
Gretchen provides many examples of real-life habits – both good and bad – that she and her friends exhibit or are working to form. These examples help me relate to similar instances in my own life. Many of us are working to form similar habits: healthy eating, regular exercise, being social, keeping our house neat, etc. Reading or seeing how others have successfully set up healthy habits that we covet can be a great motivator. Look for healthy habits that you’d like to attain in people you meet and ask them for advice or just listen to their stories of how they reached the state where the action became habit. We can learn a lot from others and gain a support system in the meantime!
In closing, I’ll leave you with The Habits Manifesto from the book:
What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.
Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong.
Focus on actions, not outcomes.
By giving something up, we may gain.
Things often get harder before they get easier.
When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves.
We’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.
It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.
We can’t make people change, but when we change, others may change.
We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.
We manage what we monitor.
Once we’re ready to begin, begin now.
In my next post, I’ll share what healthy habits I’m working on! I’ve not been perfect at them by any means, but with the tips I learned from this book and from Melissa’s posts, I feel very hopeful that I’ll achieve my goals of forming some new habits that are important to me and where I want to go in my life. Melissa and I would love to hear about what habits YOU’RE working on and how things have been going so far.
Take care and good luck with your own healthy habits!