Moxie: A Series on Self- Care (habits)

For a long time, I thought habits were tangible actions. However, over the past year, I have realized that the majority of my habits are things I don't do. Not drinking water, not making time for exercise, not picking up the house, the inaction becomes engrained in us and results in a pattern. As simple as it seems, the majority of self-care boils down to tweaking the routines in our life, filling the inaction with action. 

Starting something new is never easy. A number of times I have tried to get back into exercise over the past four years is embarrassingly large. For me, the idea of carving out new time for an action doesn't work. If I'm already not doing something, how am I supposed to add time to my day to start? Enter the idea of habit stacking. 

Habit stacking is simple: Stack a new, good habit onto an existing one.

One of my aims in self-care is to drink more water. There is no way around it, it has to happen. So I started stacking. As I make coffee in the morning, I drink two glasses of water. Isn't it ridiculously simple? I'm already making coffee every morning and by throwing in a small extra step during the waiting, I'm hitting 25% of my water intake before 8 am. So my rule now is that if I reach for a juice, coke, whatever, I have to drink two glasses of water first. 

Want another idea? A lot of you ask how I get through 5-10 books a month. Here is the secret (or rather, the stacking). There is a book in my purse at all times and every time I park the car, I pull it out and read a few pages. I try to squeeze out of the house about five minutes earlier than I normally would for every errand or meeting. By the time I park, I have a little bit of time before I need to get inside so I sit and read. Nothing major, I'm not carving out an hour before bed each night or waking up super early. A few pages here and there in parking lots adds up.

It's brilliant, right? Throw something good with something already existing and voila, you have a new habit. I'm still trying to figure out how to add in exercise (Jesus take the wheel) but this little practice has taken the frustration out of developing good routines. Memorize a verse while you brush your teeth, listen to a podcast while you shower, stretch as you fold laundry. A small tweak, an added nudge, make new practices and replace the inaction. It's not easy, it never is, but habit stacking has been a way for me to incorporate a bit more self-care into my days without feeling like I am overhauling my life. 

And if you have any tips on habit stacking for exercise, send them my way. SERIOUSLY. 



Meredith HarperComment