10 Ways to Build Productive Habits Over the Summer
Summer is here! For some, it’s a time to catch up on some much-needed R&R. For others, it’s an opportunity to accomplish all of the things that had been put off during the school year. This includes dedicating some time to improving our minds and bodies and working on building good habits to take with us into the new school year. New year, new me-- right?
A habit is defined as a repeated behavior that is incited automatically at the cue of an external context- meaning that something triggers the action, which can be performed without a second thought. Although we all like the idea of practicing healthy habits, building habits can be difficult because implementing them is often time-consuming and may require more effort than we initially anticipated.
The key to forming and maintaining habits long-term is to make performing them as effortless and automatic as possible. Her are 10 tips for building lasting good habits over the summer:
1. Find Your “Why?”
Before you start implementing your habit, determine your motivation for pursuing it. What’s your “Why?” This underlying reason will inspire you to stay on track, which will help you move towards your ultimate goal. On a related note, don’t focus on satisfying others with your habits-- your daily behaviors and pastimes should contribute to your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, not someone else’s perception of you!
2. Plan Ahead
Set a schedule for your habit. Where will you perform it and when? Establishing a set place and time for your habit will remind you to initiate that habit and will help build the contextual cues you need to integrate the habit into your daily life. Location is strongly associated with habit strength. Choosing an easily accessible, pleasant, and familiar location to perform your new habit will help automatically trigger your desired behavior and make performing your habit more enjoyable.
Remember to be as specific as possible when creating your plan! And, don’t be afraid to rework your schedule if your initial plan doesn’t quite fit your lifestyle.
3. Add, Don’t Subtract
It is always easier to add new behaviors than it is to stop doing a previously held behavior. Nobody likes trying to stop doing something completely- this is a difficult task in any context and often involves activities we enjoy, but that we know are not beneficial. Try reframing your habits to more easily meet your goals, with less mental resistance and greater enjoyment. We can mitigate or replace these old negative habits with the new positive ones. For example, instead of trying to go cold turkey on social media in the evenings, you could instead focus on reading for an hour before bed or journaling in the evening after dinner.
4. Challenge Yourself
Try making undesirable behaviors more difficult to perform. Simple changes, like moving an object out of reach or adding steps to a task’s completion, can make a behavior less enjoyable, more time-consuming, and more challenging. A common example of this is to move distracting apps to new locations on your phone, which requires you to spend more time looking for them and puts them out of your immediate line of sight, so you are less likely to think about them after switching on your phone.
5. Do Your Research
Be knowledgeable about the habits you want to adopt. The more you know about them, the better able you will be to perform them correctly, maximize their benefits, and customize them to fit your lifestyle. Understanding the positive benefits of these behaviors also acts as great motivation towards your goal!
6. Try Again
Expect some trial and error-- and embrace it! It’s likely that when trying new things, the results may be different than expected. If your new habits don’t play out like you expected them to, you can always reflect and make changes moving forward. The goal of forming a new habit is to make it natural for you, so don’t be afraid to tweak the specifics of your habit plan to make it more realistic for you to achieve.
7. Dig Deep
Rely on intrinsic motivation. Giving yourself a trip to the mall or a cookie every time you successfully complete your habit may seem like an effective way to motivate yourself, however, it provides only surface-level satisfaction. Pursuing emotional satisfaction is the only way to truly motivate yourself in the long-term. Doing things that make you feel good, both inside and out, is always more deeply and consistently rewarding than a new purchase or a brief moment of indulgence.
8. Start Small
If you set a vague goal for your habit, such as “eating more vegetables,” the size of the goal and variation in its execution can require too much brain power to tackle every day. You would have to decide which vegetables to eat and when every day, adding steps to completing the habit and increasing the stress and difficulty associated with it. Setting small and specific goals can remedy this problem.
To address the previous example, instead of having to choose from all vegetables and all meal times, you start by eating a serving of broccoli with dinner every night for a week.
9. Keep Track
It may be helpful to track your behavior along the way to monitor how consistently you are completing your habit. Digital habit tracking apps like Fabulous and Flora can help you stay accountable for your habits in fun and creative ways. Using a paper planner or a simple daily to-do list also work well and may be more effective tracking methods for those who need a concrete reminder of their activity.
10. Pursue Success
Success only encourages more success. So, with that idea in mind, pursue small and consistent change. The successful maintenance of a habit, or even the successful completion of a behavior on a daily basis, can provide the motivation needed to keep going. Focus on one behavior at a time and make sure that the short and long term goals you set for yourself are achievable, but still slightly challenging.
Forming a new habit doesn’t happen overnight. It was previously thought that it took 21 days to cement form a habit, but this has since proven to be false. It actually takes closer to two to three months to make a behavior ‘second nature.’ Although that may seem like a long time, the effort will have been well worth it.
Summer is a great opportunity to take advantage of extra free time and use it to work on self-improvement. Whether it’s used to fix bad habits from the previous school year or to try something new, the time we spend during summer is meant to help us refresh and recharge for the year ahead. There’s no time like the present to improve your daily routine, so don’t hesitate to get started!
By Lauren Miles