Recently, I had a kidney stone problem. If you’ve had them, you understand the excruciating pain they cause, and if you haven’t, consider yourself lucky! I discovered my issue was not drinking enough water. I wasn’t drinking enough water because I didn’t make the decision to incorporate water into my daily routine.
Then I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which examines habits and how we all use cues, routine, and reward. The human brain craves this cycle, Duhigg writes, so it’s important to have the right routines in place. I now had more motivation and insight–in addition to all the discomfort–to do something about my kidney stones. I applied my learnings:
- My cue: I am in pain/thirsty
- My routine: Keep water with me at all times
- My reward: My kidney stones are gone, and I feel better and healthier
Here’s your guide to help you establish good routines:
Go Routine Shopping
Since the brain hungers for routine, it’s important to determine those that are most beneficial to your health and happiness. Pick three to four that you know you’ll stick to. Let’s look at fitness as an example. If you decide you want to jog each morning, how can you set yourself up for success? Cue. Routine. Reward.
- Your cue: Leaving running shoes by the door
- Your routine: Jogging three miles each morning
- Your reward: Exercise gives you fulfillment and more energy during the day
Avoid Negative Routines
The phrase “bad habits” exists for a reason; we all have a few. Routines can be double-edged swords, and our brains can glom onto negative ones. Boredom can serve as a cue for a routine of excessive screen time, yielding no reward. A stressful day may lead to stress-eating with the “reward” of an upset stomach. There are certainly benefits to unplugging and comfort food but not at the expense of priorities and good nutrition.
Exercise Your Routine Muscle
Make your routines, well, routine. Just as you’d lift dumbbells to strengthen your biceps, maintaining and even enhancing your routines serve to further develop them. Everyone falls off the routine wagon, and that’s okay. We commonly assume that once we stop a good habit, we can’t resume. Don’t berate yourself. Tomorrow’s a new day and a great opportunity to start over.
Good routines have good results. Decide how you want to improve your lifestyle and incorporate the routines that will have the most impact. The brain likes routines, but it doesn’t discriminate, so be mindful of the wrong ones that will take you off course. Practice good routine hygiene with consistency, and if you stumble, hop back on the horse.
What are routines you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.