Creative ideas for learning new good habits.

I’d like to establish (or re-establish, or reinforce) some good habits, like eating a piece of fruit every day, or vacuuming every week . . . that kind of thing.

Some suggestions I’ve heard:

  1. Get some stickers, and put one on the calendar every day you do the new task. For some people (not me, as it turns out) the sticker is, in part, its own reward. Another important part of the reinforcement is the desire not to leave a blank spot, a very visible reminder of your failure.

  2. This one is kind of a reverse swear jar. Think of something that you’d like to buy, or something you’d like to do that costs money. Think about how long you would like to work on your habit, and the price of your item, and choose a set amount that you will contribute the jar every time you complete your task. For example, say you want to do the dishes every night, and to reward yourself, you’ll go to the movies. If a movie ticket costs $8, if you put 25 cents into the bank every night after doing the dishes, then you’ll be able to go to the movies in a little over 4 weeks.

  3. I haven’t tried this, but I’m intrigued by this technique, where you mark off the days you’ve completed your task for three weeks. If you miss a day, you have to start over. If you make it three weeks, doing the task every day, then, ta-da, you have established the habit (supposedly.) Ignoring Mormon associations, it seems like a simple, no-nonsense method.

Do you know any creative ways to help establish a good habit?

The most effective “trick” I learned was for habits that you keep forgetting to do, like pill-taking and flossing. So straightforward it can hardly be called a trick, but it works for me:

I had to take my pill at the same time every day. I take them first thing after I wake up, which helps.

Now, I know that I never remember whether I took it or not. So, every time it occurred to me to take it (“did I take it? I can’t remember!”) I would stop what I was doing (this is key, part of keeping a habit is remembering to keep the habit) and run and make sure I took it, and take it if I didn’t. If I didn’t do it right away, I would forget.

Doing it reinforces remembering it. The more you remember it, the more you will do it. I now take my pill every day without fail.

Another thing I do is link good-habits-you-want-to-develop with bad-habits-you-do-anyway. Like, every time you stay up all night playing San Andreas, you have to run around the block first/eat a piece of fruit before you reach for the Doritos/etc. If you’re conscientious about it for a while you should start to associate one with the other.

(In fact I can trace my current active lifestyle to starting to smoke too much, I knew if I smoked I had to exercise or I’d not be able to run up a flight of stairs. Now, ten years later, I still smoke and I still exercise regularly, and I credit it largely to the strong association I built in my mind - while jogging, I thought about smoking, and while smoking I thought about jogging. 'Course now, if I quit smoking …)

That helped with me and doin’ the laundry. I resolved to take a load down and put it in the washer every morning, put it in the dryer when I got home, then fold before bed, etc. But I kept forgetting to do one step along the line. And I’d remember it, and then think, oh, well, I’ll just do it tomorrow morning (if it’s putting in) or tomorrow after work (if it’s starting the dryer), etc. So as result, the laundry wasn’t getting done! So I made the rule that if I remembered that I’d forgotten the laundry, I had to drop whatever I was doing and get it going, whatever time of day it is, or wherever I am in the cycle. (The only exception is that I don’t start the dryer if I’m not going to be home, for fire safety reasons.) That helped some.

Linking new habits with existing good habits works, too. I’d sooner die than go to bed with unbrushed teeth, so I got myself into the habit of cleaning the litter box immediately after I brush my teeth. Put toothbrush back on charger, pick up scooper. Every time. Lou (the cat) is grateful. :slight_smile:

What’s helping me clear out all my old crap (very, very difficult for me - and I’m supposed to be moving in, like, three weeks!) is to take stuff to the consignment store instead of Goodwill or the Salvation Army or whatever. It still helps people by getting them opportunities to buy nice stuff cheap, and I get a little bit of money as incentive. Also, they only take ten items from you a day, which is great for me - I just have to come up with ten. Just ten. When I’ve got ten I can take them and feel I’ve accomplished something.

That’s really specific and not generalizable, but hey. It does help me some.