How to Hack Your Habits Using Habit Stacking
Have you ever been driving or walking somewhere routine, somewhere you always go- maybe work, or to pick your kids up from school- only realize that you've been paying zero attention to what you're doing? No, you weren't recklessly driving or being negligent. You still stopped at traffic lights, used your gas and break and turned when needed. You arrived safe and sound, but your brain was never consiously focused on the process of driving. You were almost in a robotic auto-pilot.
What you experienced is common and is actually a biological adaptation to make your brain more efficient. Essentially when a habit has been repeated often, over time your brain no longer needs to communicate with the pre-frontal cortex- the part of your brain that helps you plan complex tasks. Your brain can just DO. This is known as leveraging the Default Mode Network (DMN) of your brain.
The cool thing about these default habitual behaviors is that it frees up that brainpower for other, more complex tasks. Think about it- how many times have you had a brilliant idea while brushing your teeth or in the shower?
The other cool thing about the fact that we can walk around like auto-pilot zombies? It means we can start tethering habits we want to adopt to ones we are carrying out already. In short, you can "hack your habits".
Here's how to do it:
1) Make a list of your "auto pilot" habits each day.
Ones that will happen regardless of circumstance and without thinking. For example, I assure you that there is no way on Earth I will forget to have a morning coffee. Nope. Not happening. Brushing your teeth, walking your dog, eating breakfast - list them all.
2) List 2-3 new habits you've had a hard time adopting.
Maybe it's remembering to drink water or take your vitamins. Maybe it's remembering to meditate every day. You can list more, but for the purpose of change it's best to focus on changing 2 or 3 at a time.
3) Find a way to tether or "habit stack" your new habits to existing ones.
Put your supplements next to the coffee pot. Drink a full glass of water before every meal. Put a post it on the TV remote reminding you to meditate for 10 minutes before pressing ON.
4) Keep track!
Use a habit tracker or day planner to track your new habits and trigger habits or "cues". After awhile you'll find the new ones become second nature, too!