3 min|Rhiannon Lockhart

The Art of Habit Stacking (And Why it Works!)

Wellness, Mind Health, Education

Have you heard of habit stacking? If not, I'm about to rock your world.

Many people embark on lifestyle changes in one big swoop: starting Monday, we will eat healthy, go to the gym five days per week, give up alcohol, and stop binge-watching Netflix in the evening. But where are we in three weeks time? We've maybe stuck with one of those habits and the others slowly creep back as we become overwhelmed.

What is Habit Stacking?

This is where habit stacking comes in: we take one new lifestyle change and practice it for a week, two or maybe three. Once we've got the hang of it, we add on another.

Let's take a few examples here. If your goal is to lose weight, pick one change that will get you to your goal and focus on that for two weeks, like:
  1. Swapping the afternoon café treat for a piece of fruit with almond butter. That's it, that's all.
  2. Two weeks later, you may decide to swap the morning vanilla latté for a plain latté with unsweetened almond milk. That's it, that's all.
  3. The next two weeks, we add on a little fitness, like walking around the block 5 times on your lunch break. Say it with me: that's it, that's all.
The struggle many people have with habit stacking is that we're a society built around immediate gratification. We want the work project done now. We want to have more energy now (why do you think we all love coffee so much!?). We want to have more muscles now. And while habit stacking can get you to your goals, it can take longer to see it.

How can I start Habit Stacking?

This is why it is also important to create each habit as a mini-goal, maybe even something you put on your day's to-do list to check it off. When we do this, we create space in our day for these goals and they can feel more achievable.

In some circumstances, it may be necessary to break this habit down even further to the actions that are necessary in it. In the book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear breaks down the act of going to the gym. Rather than "going to the gym" being the immediate action, he breaks it down to smaller steps: setting your alarm, packing your gym clothes, putting on your running shoes, getting in the car, going to the gym. Each of these becomes the habit that you stack upon the other until you eventually start going to the gym to workout.

Personally, I find that most people will simply go to the gym if all of those other steps have been completed in the morning so it is a slightly redundant. However, I choose that to show you the importance of building habits one by one to make them last.

One habit I often work on with clients is how to start meal planning. Often, we start with just one meal, or only cutting up veggies that are needed for meals later in the week. After a few a weeks or months, we've built habits that have allowed them to create all of their meals for the week in minimal time, with minimal cleanup.

Working with your Naturopath or nutritionist makes habit stacking even easier as you have someone who is holding you accountable to these smaller goals and helping you choose ones that are most appropriate.

Ready to jump into some new habits to feel your best? Book an appointment now.

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