Behavior Change with ‘Tiny Habits’

I’m on a 26 day streak with my meditation!  It’s becoming a part of my morning routine.  In my last blog post, I talked about meditation as the One Thing in 2017 I want to transform into a habit.  Forming a habit is not easy.  It requires a change in behavior which can be a struggle.  I learned an effective method, the Tiny Habits developed by Dr. BJ Fogg, a psychologist and innovation expert of Stanford University who specializes, as you can guess, in designing programs for behavior change.

As part of my desire for growth and knowledge with regards to health and fitness, I pursued another certification with the American Council on Exercise focusing on Behavior Change (to be discussed in a future post). On a journey to change his own behavior with regards to flossing his teeth (which he didn’t do every night), Dr. Fogg discovered three main ingredients that formed the recipe for the Tiny Habits Method.

Tiny Habits Method

What matters most when it comes to developing a habit?  Simplicity and Emotion.  When you make an activity very simple, it’s easier to get it done.  The way Dr. Fogg put it, “If a behavior is really easy, you don’t need much motivation to do it.”  Many of us use motivation as a vehicle to help meet our goals.  However, in Fogg’s research, motivation showed to be unreliable and varies from time to time.  Certain days, we just don’t feel like doing anything and when the activity is slightly complicated, the more likely it won’t get done.  Dr. Fogg made the act of flossing the simplest by flossing only one tooth daily.

How does emotion play into this?  In his search for a solution, Dr. Fogg discovered by accident that emotions have a huge effect on influencing behavior.  When he flossed one tooth, he felt a sense of accomplishment.  Dr. Fogg chose the word ‘Victory’ to celebrate this one accomplishment.  The positive emotion he experienced after the behavior made him want to do it more.  “The speed of habit formation is directly related to the immediacy and intensity of emotions you feel”. 

Simplicity and Emotion allowed for Dr. Fogg to make flossing his teeth a daily habit.  He began to apply these concepts to other behaviors he wanted.  However, he realized one ingredient was still missing – a reminder.  As he figured out, the reminder should be a behavior that’s already a part of your routine.  He used the term ‘anchor’ to define this existing behavior.  Back to flossing, Dr. Fogg’s anchor was brushing his teeth, a behavior that’s already part of his routine. Made sense right?

Create New Habits

Here are the steps using the Tiny Habits Method to start a morning meditation habit:

  1. Pick a new behavior I want – Meditate every morning
  2. Make the behavior very easy to do – I use the Calm app which has short sessions for guided meditation
  3. Figure out where the behavior will be a good fit (anchor) – After my alarm went off
  4. Celebrate! Reward Yourself for doing the behavior – The reward is feeling calm and relaxed after the session. However, another awesome perk of the Calm app are the positive quotes I receive immediately after the session and it also shows my progress with days/hours I’ve spent meditating.  I look forward to reading the quotes every morning.
  5. Be patient.  Practicing small acts will progress into something grand.

Start Small for Big Results

New Year, New Goals!  When it comes to setting your health and fitness goals, do you go for the gusto or start out small?  Choosing a small goal in its simplest form sets you up for success.  According to BJ Fogg, “What you’re doing at the early stage is building automaticity.  If you make the new behavior painful or hard in any way, your brain will find ways to stop you from doing it.  So you need to start very small.”  When something is easy to do, you are more inclined to do it more often.  And the more you do a specific behavior, it becomes ingrained in your way of life.  Naturally, it will grow into something bigger than you started with.

Is there a certain behavior you would like to become a habit this year?  Have you heard of the Tiny Habits method?

Resources:
Coaching Behavior Change, American Council on Exercise
BJ Fogg, PhD
Tiny Habits method

Linking with Fairytales and Fitness, Running on Happy for their Friday Five 2.0 – thanks for hosting!  It’s been awhile since I connected.