Add-on habit toothbrushing squat

You might have noticed that it is hard for people to form positive habits. There is a gap between how people wished they behaved and how the do. There are plenty of people who have advice for what you should be doing with your time, but few explain how you can actually transform your habits to implement their prescriptions.

A year ago, I wanted to do a better job of caring for my body. My main driving goal was to eliminate pain that I felt every day: my lower back hurt, sometimes I would have sudden rib pains that made it difficult to breathe for five seconds, my left hip and ankle are painful on occasion. One major motivator was Kelly Starrett's mobility workout of the day video blog series. Watching these videos made me realize that, with hard work, I could figure out what is wrong with my body and fix it.

Watching videos will not make you better on its own. You have to develop habits where you continually work on improving your physical condition. Maybe this sounds great to you; maybe you've watched a few of Starrett's videos. How do we go from our desire to have a habit to actually having one?

I've stumbled on a way to reasonably decent plan for how anyone can develop a new positive habit. The idea is that you take a positive habit from your life that you already have and add your new habit on to that one. I call it an "add-on habit" or "adding on a habit". What does it mean to "add on" a habit? It means you use your ingrained habit as a cue or stimulus for your new desired habit. For example, you might do the habit you want to install right after or even during a currently in place positive habit.

One positive habit I have that my parents ingrained in me (Thanks Mom and Dad), is brushing my teeth. Every morning and night I brush my teeth. I've done it so long now that it is completely automatic. There is no resistance in my mind about brushing my teeth. It's almost completely guaranteed that I will do it. You might have a similar habit; you might have the habit of brushing your teeth.

What I did last year is add air squatting on to brushing my teeth. You can try this yourself, watch Starrett's original squat video for how to do the squat. Then do it while brushing your teeth. If you do it in the morning and night, you will have accumulated about 4 minutes a day of squatting without much effort. The best part about this is you don't have to out-of-nowhere remember to do squats, you know that you always do squats when you brush your teeth.

I am surprised by how effective this technique is for developing new positive habits. One possible trap to avoid is you do not want to add a positive habit onto a negative one. For example, don't do air squats while eating unhealthy food. If you manage to kick the bad habit later, you will have also kicked the positive add-on habit.

Try this with other habits and let me know what habits you are able to create. I will be sharing additional add-on habits that I have developed over the course of this past year in future posts.

published 2014-08-16

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