Mindful Monday: Habitizing recipes

My friends and family know that I am far from an expert when it comes to my culinary skills. Eating skills, maybe, but but not cooking or preparing meals. The one exception was last year when I used Blue Apron, which gave me all the ingredients labeled and measured out, and recipe cards that were so clear and easy to follow. Those recipes helped me enjoy the process of the meal-making so much more, and even allowed me to find flow while cooking!

One of my goals for this year was to work on improving my habits. I wanted to develop some new habits and expand  my daily wellbeing practices like breathing, meditating, writing, gratitude, exercising, teaching and being present. And I wanted some helpful, easy to follow directions. In short, I wanted some new recipes for my habits.

As a voracious social science reader, I had already been reading about the science of habits, and behavior change. I had loved Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit and used its principles in college classes and work with clients. Last fall I devoured James Clear’s Atomic Habits, and B.J. Fogg’s Tiny Habits. Since then, I have been practicing, and tweaking my own tiny habits. Before the pandemic (is “BP” now a thing?), by using Fogg’s tiny habits recipe, I created a few new habits like daily pushups, stretching, and morning mindset routine. Last week, with the help of Tiny Habits, free 5-day course, I created a couple new habit recipes to see how they worked for me.

So what’s a habit recipe? It looks like this:

 After I (existing anchor), I will (new tiny behavior), and then I will celebrate my accomplishment.

First, decide on a simple behavior change you would like to make (note emphasis on simple!) Then, find a good anchor for the tiny habit. Anchors are things that you do in your day, that are part of your routine, like brushing your teeth, or having a cup of coffee. Those are two of the anchors that I used to create new habits in January. For example, one of mine is “after I turn my water on for coffee, I will do 10 pushups.” Sometimes I exceed that, but my minimum is 10.  Or you can start with an existing anchor, and then stack on a new tiny behavior that naturally fits after it. I felt like brushing my teeth could be an anchor for something, because it is such a regularly occurring activity! Thus my “tooth & stretch” routine was born. When I brush my teeth in the morning, I do a set of hip openers, kicks and squats. Simple, tiny, and anchored on the existing activity of brushing my teeth. It is helpful to find something you already do, so that your already occurring activity becomes your reminder and then it’s not about motivation or will power. And the celebration? It seals the deal, because positive emotion helps rewire the brain to myelinate these habits.

This week, I tried out a few new habit recipes. Two were related: “after my first cup of coffee, I will write down the name of someone for whom I am grateful” and “after my second cup of coffee, I will thank that person and share my gratitude, by phone or text.”  Over the course of five days practice, I found that after I wrote the person’s name down, I was so pumped to thank them that it worked better to do both of those actions after my first cup. I practiced, tweaked the recipe, and voila, a new habit was born!

So even if you think you have not been a good ‘behavior change’ cook in the past, these habit recipes are easy to follow, and the results are habitizing!