How to make a habitHumans are creatures of routine. We can get frustrated with its sameness, but ultimately it is what makes us feel safe and comfortable. Routine, while it can grow mundane, makes us feel secure.

We develop routines by repeating actions that allow us to continue with our life in a way that we know suits us. We repeat behaviours that have worked for us before. We generate habits that, when combined, create a pattern of being that gets us through each day with relative ease.

People don’t necessarily think of their everyday actions as habits.

But try getting up in the morning to find that you ran out toothpaste. It’s not a huge difference, but your regular morning routine is slight disrupted and that can leave you feeling off for the rest of the day. People fall into routines because it means they no longer have to think about the things they do every day. They can go about it automatically, freeing their mind to plan ahead, or enjoy some mental ambling.

And it makes things more convenient. Especially as most people have more pressing concerns than only brushing their teeth.

But once you’re comfortably settled into your habits, it can be difficult to change them even slightly. Luckily, if you’re problem is biting your nails or overeating, or generally anything you’re better off without, there are plenty of great places you can find advice on how to shake off your negative habits.

But it can be harder to figure out how to generate new habits that will actively improve things. That could mean making more healthy food at home or making time to meditate or whatever little extra effort you think you could use in your life. It might be as simple as remembering to stop taking things for granted, to be mindful of every moment.

It’s famously thought that if you can maintain a new habit for thirty days, it can last the rest of your life. But that first month is the most difficult to get through. You have to disrupt the routine that you’ve settled into already in order to improve. It’s all too easy to fall back into your old methods just because you’re used to them.

It can help, until you get to the point at which the new habit comes naturally, to have a little reminder.

And it can be whatever works for you. If you feel you’d need it, you could put up a giant poster over your bed that says in giant letters REMEMBER TO TAKE YOUR PILL. Something you can’t possibly miss. Or you might prefer something more subtle. You could get a wristband or a bracelet or a badge that you wouldn’t usually wear and, when you catch sight of it, consciously remind yourself of the behaviour you want to cultivate. Soon enough, it’ll become instinct when you see it to fall right into it. And eventually it’ll become part of your routine altogether. Soon enough, those things will fade into the background of your life and your new habit will be properly sealed.

If you want to do both, do both. If you want to start with the more obvious reminder and switch to the smaller once you’re used to it and then later switch to none at all, then do that. Try all of them. Try any of them. Do whatever you can to seal it firmly in your mind.

But whatever you do, make sure it works for you and stick with your convictions.

Getting yourself into a positive habit can be more difficult than you might imagine. But it’s worth pushing through the initial difficulties if you keep in mind the difference it makes.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.