Author BJ Fogg puts it very succinctly so I’m borrowing his phrase.
“You change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad.”
Why then, are we constantly trying to change in ways that make us feel bad? (ie deprivation, eliminating things we like, trying to resist temptation, etc.)
ESPECIALLY in a ‘more is more’ kind of culture. Think about it … when’s the last time you saw a no-eating contest on TV? You know, the ones where they see how long they can go without eating?
Oh riiiiiighttt… those don’t exist.
But what does exist is Man vs. Food, eating challenges galore, and seeing who can make the biggest [insert food item] in existence and then find a group of people to eat it.
It’s been more, more, more for the past few decades, particularly when it comes to food. If it were the case for activity, we might not be in our current predicament, but I digress.
Definition of Insanity
So instead of continuing this insanity (trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results), let’s aim for something that works because it makes us feel good – and feel good right away!
Enter the idea of addition (of something) instead of abstaining (from something).
I know, I know, your first instinct may be that you just don’t have TIME for adding things in. Your schedule is swamped as it is and you’re lucky if you get to the gym a few times a week (pre-Covid). Plus now that everyone’s home and in your face 24/7 it’s even tougher to find any free time.
But the things I’m proposing aren’t time vacuums like social media, and could even be done WHILE you’re enjoying your current time vacuums… like scrolling social media.
A few habit experts have put it a few different ways and called it a few different things – I’m partial to calling it habit stacking – but it boils down to using what you already do to instill a new (hopefully good) habit.
Take using the restroom for example. We all go several times per day – I hope – and therefore it’s a perfect thing we already do that we can use as an anchor to attach a new habit we want to do… say 5 bodyweight squats.
Just with this one switch you’ll go from doing approximately zero bodyweight squats each day to maybe 50 if you drink a lot of water! That’s a HUGE game changer when you look at it like that.
Except that it takes maybe 10 seconds after each time you use the restroom.
Plus you get a sense of accomplishment because you did it! And it’s way easier than designating a time to do 50 squats, but the resulting number of squats is still the same.
Or another prime example, drinking ~16oz of water first thing in the morning while the coffee is percolating. Or what about when you sit down to watch your favorite evening drama – at the start of each commercial break maybe you do three push ups. How about that social media I mentioned earlier? What if each time you opened an app to scroll you decided to stretch for the first 60 seconds of scrolling?
Yet another example, writing your meals on the family chalkboard right after putting away the week’s groceries (what you’ve got is fresh in your mind, so why not?).
Whether it’s something you routinely do multiple times per day (restroom), once per day (coffee), or once per week (groceries), you can find things you already do and then attach new habits to them in the same frequency.
Add Instead of Subtract
By adding things instead of trying to subtract or eliminate them, you’re more likely to get the good feels and less likely to feel deprived.
Take 5 minutes (for real, do this) and think about things you do every single day, or every single week without fail. It’s going to be a long list, but once you’ve got it, you’re ready to start adding little bits of activity back into your life, one habit stack at a time.
The small wins happening throughout your day add up to massive momentum and before you know it, you’ll find yourself upping the ante to 10 squats each time.
Remember, if you make it easy and you feel good after you do it, you’re more likely to continue doing it in the future. Set yourself up for success with addition rather than failing (again) with deprivation.