How to Create Good Habits for teens.

Habits are actions performed on a daily basis, repeatedly and automatically, usually without awareness.

We’ve all heard of the saying: “Habits make or break you.” But how do we create good habits?

Creating new habits when you’re already used to your old ones is hard. Luckily, change doesn’t have to be so uncomfortable. James Clear’s best selling book, Atomic habits, gives the ultimate guide such that creating new habits has never been easier.

Healthy habits poster
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First things first, how are habits formed?

According to James, habits are formed in a four steps loop: Cue–Craving– Response–Reward. When you recognise the need to do something (Cue), your brain comes up with a desire to act(Cravings). When these solutions are executed (Response) and the outcome is pleasant (Reward), your brain marks that cycle and stores it for next time thereby making it easy to recognise the cue by the reminiscence of the satisfaction it gave.

E.g When you hear your phone ping, you immediately get a cue and want to know the contents of those notifications, which stimulates an action of you taking the phone. Once you read the notification, your become satisfied and get your reward. So, the next time you hear your phone ping, your brain automatically reach for your phone to satisfy it’s curiosity.

It is this habit loop that is responsible for creating both bad and good habits. Without them, no habit can be formed. If your brain never recognises the cue, the craving won’t happen. And if there’s no craving, there’s no cause for action and thus no reward.

How to Create any Habit.

All the tips below adopts the Fours Laws of Behaviour change” described in Atomic Habits, which are:

1st law: Make it Obvious (Cue)
2nd law: Make it Attractive (Craving)
3rd law: Make it Easy (Response)
4th law: Make it Satisfying (Reward)

Following these four laws, here are simple things you can do to build good habits.

Write Clear and Concise Habit Goals.

All of us want a better life. Better clothes, grades, finances and health. And we know that we have to create good habits to achieve these things, but it becomes difficult identifying the exact habits we need to create. Sometimes, we make vague pitches and expect to stick to it. Exercise more, Read more, Save more, blah blah blah. We make wishes instead of resolutions. If you want to form good habits, you have to be detailed about the habits you want to adopt.

For instance, if you want make reading a habit, choose a genre of books you want to read, and a frequency of reading. “I will read a new novel every two weeks” is better than “I will start reading more this month.”

Writing out your habits goals fulfils the first law of behavioural change, which is making it obvious. By clearly defining the habits you want to adopt, it takes away any fog or uncertainty that may be in the way of the three other elements of the habit loop.

Writing is one of the best hobbies to do in 2022

Add new habits to old ones.

You can’t change your entire routine at once, it’s just not possible. Change takes consistency and effort, and little changes have a longer lasting effect. So if you want to start changing your habits and adding new ones, you have to sprinkle them in little bits.

The first step is to identify your existing habits. Write them down if you must. Then use habit stacking and Implementation intention to create the new routine. Implementation intention is simply being detailed on how you wish to go about your new habit. E.g I’ll do my homework at 4pm at the dining table. Habit stacking means attaching a new habit you want to form to an old one. In this case, I may decide to do my homework after I’m done eating lunch.

Using both, the outcome of my final habit will be: After lunch, I will do my homework at 4pm at the dining table.

The habit stacking + Implementation intention formula is thus:

After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [BEHAVIOR] at[TIME] in [LOCATION].

 

You can even break these habits in smaller chunks, will leads me to the next point.

Start Small.

You’ve heard this a dozen times. And it may sound mediocre. But let me ask you this: Wouldn’t you prefer feeling good over small accomplishments than beating yourself up for one that you may likely not get?

It’s easy to anticipate doing the big stuff when your brain is still pumping with motivation– I will start exercising for 30 minutes every day and studying for 10 hours everyday. But let’s be honest, motivation doesn’t last, and big starts like these aren’t sustainable, at least for the majority.

One of James Clear 3rd Law tips is to downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less.

Is that even possible, Ihuoma?

As weird as it sounds, yes. You can reduce any habit to small portions that can be achieved in less than 2 minutes, even if it’s just a negligible action compared to what you might be working towards.

How to Downscale common Habits.

Here are a few examples of what downscaling your habits is like.

Read More: Pick a book and skim through the first two pages including the table of contents.

Exercise often: Do ten jumping jacks and 10 pushups.

Start doing skincare: Wash my face with warm water and dry with a towel.

Etcetera.

You may not be reading the entire book, or getting enough reps in, but it’s a step in the direction you want to take. The aim of downscaling your habits is not to do them perfectly, but to make them too easy that it’s almost impossible not to do them. With this, your brain can master these little actions that once it becomes automatic, will start to improve by themselves, quite automatically too if I may add.

Skip Motivation, Design your environment instead.

People often choose products not because of what they are, butbecause of where they are. If I walk into the kitchen and see a plate oflcookies on the counter, I’ll pick up half a dozen and start eating, even if I hadn’t been thinking about them beforehand and didn’t necessarilyfeel hungry. If the communal table at the office is always filled with doughnuts and bagels, it’s going to be hard not to grab one every now and then. Your habits change depending on the room you are in and the cues in front of you. _ James Clear –Atomic habits

I don’t want to be that person who says “if you truly want it, you’ll get it done” because that’s just not true. Sometimes, you may really want something, but even your greatest willpower will fall to the hands of a bad environment. You may want to study really bad, but if you’re in the middle of a party, that’s not going to happen, no matter how “motivated” you are at that point.

Designing your environment doesn’t mean changing it completely. Sure, that may help, but not everyone has the privilege of switching to more favourable conditions. Some of us are stuck in a place for a given period, especially as young adults. Prepping our environment thus, simply means making little changes to our daily space to make our good habits more obvious and easier. Say I plan to read a page of a book every night. If there’s no book within eye range, I may probably forget. Even if I don’t, merely thinking of the stress I’d have to go through to get a book elsewhere may kill the desire completely. I may procrastinate reading that page till I eventually don’t.

On the flip side, if I have a book sitting right next to me on the bed, chances are, I’ll read it, because it’s both obvious and easy to do so.

Community is Vital

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every
day. If you are surrounded by fit people, you’re more likely to consider working out to be a common habit. If you’re surrounded by jazz lovers, you’re more likely to believe it’s reasonable to play jazz every day. Your
culture sets your expectation for what is “normal.” Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together. _ James Clear – Atomic habits.

Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are” is a famous Nigerian saying, one every teen/youth has heard at least once since their childhood. This saying has never been truer. As much as you may like to think that you’re in control, you are a product of society, we all are. This can be both bad and good– bad if the society we find ourselves in are working against the habits we wish to build, and good if vice versa. Another benefit of community is that they can help you with accountability i.e, you can find someone whom you two check up on each other to make sure you’re both on track with your habits.

Use the power of community to foster good habits. Do you want to read more, find a bunch of studious people and make friends with them. Am I saying you should ditch your old friends? No. But draw closer to people who do the type of things you want to do, at least until you’re strong enough to do it on your own. As naija people would say: “Follow who know road”

Community of people forming a group star
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Develop a reward system.

Humans loooovvveee instant gratification, we live for that stuff. Anything and everything you do that gives you a reward immediately can become a habit.

You bathe, you smell nice and feel clean… satisfying, new habit!

Felt stressed, drank a bottle or beer, loved the feeling, new habit!

Now how about things that the rewards come much more later? How about studying for an exam that’s in two weeks or saving up for a retirement that’s 40 years away? Surely, your brain can’t handle all that waiting, it wants something now!

So develop your own reward system– something to distract you, and keep your brain coming back for more while the main reward is pending. These don’t have to be actual or tangible rewards, little acts that give your brain bursts of pleasure will do.

Example, I may decide that after writing my article for my next blog, I will watch a YouTube video I’ve been wanting to watch. Or, I can fill a jar with stones and decide that I’ll take a stone out after I’ve done an item on my to-do list. As vain as that sounds, seeing the number of stones reduce in that jar as I complete tasks can push me to get more stuff done.

Design a reward system to keep you busy while the ultimate prize loads.

Love Boredom.

Despite these numerous tips, there will certainly be days when you’re left with nothing. Days when indulging in your new good habits becomes boring. On days like this, enjoy the boredom. Sit and do nothing.

If you don’t feel like reading, stare blankly at the pages. Read through the lines even if it seems like nothing is entering. Don’t feel like writing, start writing nonetheless, write whatever comes to your mind even if it’s totally and utterly senseless.

Moments of boredom are the gears that can move your habits from a stage to the next. When you overcome periods of boredom, you’ve exercised your brain muscles to withhold a habit for much longer.

See quits as breaks, not quits.

So you had a bad day, haven’t exercised for months, the pages of your book still fresh from not being opened in over a week, so what?

It would be scam to make you believe that habits are supposed to be done perfectly. Even after they’re formed, you have the tendency of quitting habits after a small break.

This is completely normal, just don’t see them as failures. Take them as breaks rather, that will end and then you can continue on your good habits.

The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit. This is a distinguishing feature between winners and losers. Anyone can have a bad performance, a bad workout, or a bad day at work. But when successful people fail, they rebound quickly. The breaking of a
habit doesn’t matter if the reclaiming of it is fast _ James Clear – Atomic habits.

Finally, the totality James Clear Four laws of Behavior is summarised in this sheet.

The four laws of Behavior change summary
The four laws of Behavior change summary

I hope you found this article useful, very long I know. If you made it all the way down, Kudos! Don’t forget to share and subscribe if you want new updates.

Stay Safe, Stay Happy.

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