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Anyone can create healthy habits with one simple technique.
On my quest for creating better mental health habits, I picked up Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise. It’s appropriately short, quick to read, but chalk full of great information.
Stephen discusses how hard it can be to create healthy habits if we rely on our motivation. Why? Because our motivation varies from day to day (hour to hour) and is therefore too unreliable and unpredictable. Habits require consistency.
So what can we use if motivation can’t help us? Willpower. Unlike motivation, willpower is reliable. It can be strengthened. And it can be scheduled.
But we only have so much willpower, right? I might have been able to make myself get off the couch and to the gym yesterday, but the couch is looking pretty good today and I just can’t stop watching a third episode of Nurse Jackie on Netflix.
In comes mini habits:
In the book, Stephen introduces us to mini habits – habits that are so simple that they require no motivation and very little willpower. He argues that doing a small thing consistently is better than doing a big thing every once and a while. This can be illustrated as a circle representing your comfort zone. Make too big of a leap outside of it, and you’ll find yourself jumping back in once you’ve run out of motivation and willpower. But, using a small amount of willpower to step right outside of your comfortable zone doesn’t take as much energy and allows you to get comfortable with where you are – widening your circle.
How do you make mini habits?
To create a mini habit of your own, take a full sized habit and narrow it down into the most simple step.
“My rule of thumb is to minify my desired habit until it sounds stupid. When something sounds “stupid small,” your brain sees it as nonthreatening.” – Stephen Guise
Full sized habit: I want to have more gratitude in my life (lofty, vague goal)
Mini habit: I will write down one thing (one word) that I am grateful for everyday (That seems too easy. Perfect.)
On many days, you will find this mini habit easy to meet. It requires no motivation and very little willpower. Anyone can write down one word everyday day, right? But, on days that are crazy busy, and you’re feeling horrible, 1 word of gratitude might be a big accomplishment. If you just reach your goal, or go over it, you should celebrate and reward both equally. You met the goal. You’re on your way to forming a healthy habit.
I have enjoyed creating mini habits for myself. I enjoy checking off daily habits in my habit tracker every night, including gratitude. If you would like to try the mini habit technique and learn more about the 8 steps in creating them, I would strongly recommend reading the book. You can also visit Stephen’s mini habit website at minihabits.com.
What mini habit can you start today?