June 24, 2021

What is habit stacking?

Habit stacking is a method used to link a new behaviour to an already established habit.

“First you make your habits and then your habits make you.”

Let’s face it – if you are looking to lose weight – and perhaps you have held onto too much weight for too long, then you will need to change or replace some habits that have not been working for you.

Habits are a powerful way to create positive change in your life. Making any new behaviour change stick is tricky and needs repetition and discipline. Your brain needs to get used to these new behaviours without it being too hard to do. 

To make your new habits as stress free as possible, ensure that you build in a new habit at a time in your daily routine that is manageable. There is a lot of noise around morning routines, but if your house is already chaotic in the morning, unless you choose to get up early when your home is quiet, then perhaps an extended morning routine is not for you just now. Consider what is an important new habit for you and consider an appropriate time that will make your new habit likely to be successful. Don’t make it hard on yourself.

We have put together these 3 tips to show how easy this process can be to implement.

Tip 1

Don’t do it all at once – focus on one area of your day and start with stacking one new habit together with an existing habit. Once this new habit becomes automatic, then you can focus on adding another habit (stacking) or focus on another part of your day.

Choose a habit already in place, such as drinking your morning coffee. Pair this with a health habit you want to add to your routine such as drinking more water. Before drinking your morning coffee, drink one glass of water.

From here, you can continue building, by adding another habit to these two habits. For example, after drinking your coffee and drinking the glass of water, you will walk down 3 flights of stairs and back up before you go back to your desk.

To introduce journaling into your daily routine, one idea is to take your Healthy Inspirations Daily Planner with you to bed, instead of a mobile device. Then, just start with writing down 3 things you are grateful for. Then perhaps you could add 3 things that you have achieved that day. 

Then you may add 3 things you plan on doing tomorrow. Actually, getting to-do items out of your head and into a place that your mind trusts, may help you sleep better as you’re not ruminating on what you have to do. It may take weeks to get to the final step. 

Tip 2

Use a current habit you already do and then stack the new behaviour on top of that existing habit. It might be getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, having your morning coffee, walking in the front door each evening, or getting in the car.

The idea is that the existing habit will trigger another, and with time it will become effortless.

These examples may give you some ideas of how this works:

Waking up routine

  • Drink a glass of water on waking – make sure you have the glass of water next to your bed.
  • Journal – leave your Daily Planner and a pen on your bedside table ready to write.
  • Meditate – this can be done in bed or dedicated area. If you use an app make sure phone and headphones are set up in advance.
  • Exercise – lay out exercise clothes and shoes each evening so they are ready for a morning walk or exercise session.

Getting ready for your day routine

  • Cook or take out pre-prepared breakfast and enjoy with water, tea or coffee.
  • Pack prepared food (last night’s leftovers) for lunch and exercise gear for a workout.
  • Listen to your favourite podcast while on the way to work.
  • Meet a friend for coffee for your dose of daily social interaction and together plan your exercise and social activities for the upcoming week. This mutual accountability can make a real difference.

Evening routine

  • While dinner is cooking prepare breakfast for tomorrow.
  • After dinner pack up leftovers for lunch tomorrow before clearing away.
  • Turn off your phone at 7pm. This allows you to spend uninterrupted time with loved ones.
  • Prepare for bed – some routines may include dim the lights, take a bath, do some yoga or breathing exercises for relaxation, read or journal, prepare a warm drink like camomile tea.

Tip 3

Start small. If you wanted to run a marathon you wouldn’t start with running 42 miles first up. Make small wins your main focus as this requires little or no willpower, is simple and achievable and increases and builds your emotional momentum.

Small wins could include:

  • Completing your Daily Planner after each meal and snack
  • Keeping filled water bottles in the fridge, your car, and the office
  • Pre-plan meals and shopping – saving time and money

Always reward yourself, no matter how small with a non-food reward like:

  • Watch an episode of your favourite series
  • Reading time
  • Taking a walk
  • Having your nails done
  • Having a massage
  • Enjoying a hobby that brings you joy

Repetition is the key, so be consistent, as this builds muscle memory until these new habits are ingrained.

Be specific and clear about introducing your new habits. Eating better or eating healthy are not specific. That’s why your Daily Planner lays out the serving size for your protein each meal and snack, the types of vegetables that you can eat on your plan, the number of fat servings per day and how much water to drink to stay hydrated. That is being specific.

If you need help losing weight and want to incorporate habit stacking into your life, then the Healthy Inspirations program is a great start and the weekly coaching gives you that extra accountability.