The new school year arrives, we start a new job, we decide to start a healthier life by going to the gym… All these situations are very common for most people, and as one of the great Greek philosophers called Heraclitus said: "Everything flows; Everything changes; Nothing remains." Day by day we are faced with decisions that can change the sense and direction of our lives and only our motivation towards them can make us follow them.
One of the keys to achieving our goals is the generation of new habits . Creating routines that facilitate and guide us through the path that leads to our destination is fundamental. Thanks to these habits we develop new neuronal circuits and behaviour patterns that, if well consolidated, will accompany us for the rest of our lives.
Learning a new habit not only depends on repeating it, but it is also closely related to the individual’s ability to manage our emotions. Nowadays talking about emotional intelligence is nothing new, but there is a term known as gratification delay that can go more unnoticed.
When we decide to get involved and commit ourselves to the accomplishment of a task we set in motion various mechanisms among which is emotional control.
An example: the delay of gratification
Various studies, such as the popular Marshmallow Test, have shown that those people who are able to delay their rewards over time reap benefits in different facets of their lives. Some of these experiments were conducted on children who were left in a room with a very tasty treat and it was suggested that if they did not eat it they would get more of it when the experimenter returned.
The results of these tests were that those who waited the longest, when re-evaluated as adolescents and adults, demonstrated a remarkable set of advantages over their peers.
As teenagers, they had higher scores on social competence, self-confidence, and self-esteem, and were rated by their parents as more mature, better able to cope with stress, more likely to plan for the future, and more rational. As adults, they were less likely to have problems with drugs or other addictive behaviors, get divorced, or be overweight.
Adopting new habits
Beyond knowing how to control our desires for reward, there are some keys that can help us introduce new habits into our lives .
1. The 21-day rule
One of the pioneers in talking about the 21-day rule for creating new habits was Dr. Maxwell Maltz. A renowned surgeon, he realised that in cases such as cosmetic operations or limb amputations, it took people 21 days to generate a new mental image of themselves.
Thanks to these discoveries, we take this time period as a reference for the consolidation of new habits, that is, it is necessary to repeat the new behaviors for 21 days so that they become automatic and consolidated.
2. Linking it to our value chain
If the new habit we want to include in our daily life is very closely related to our values and/or principles, it will have an extra importance that will encourage its realization. This can be explained through its link to our intrinsic motivation , our desire to do something proactively.
3. Meditation can help us
One of the ways we humans learn is through visualization. It consists in imagining ourselves performing the tasks or objectives to be achieved. Through this process, our mind is acquiring some of the necessary skills and can be a great support to the physical realization of them.
On the other hand, techniques such as meditation can encourage the development and consolidation of new habits. It has been proven that through them, significant changes in the brain structure related to well-being and happiness are produced.
4. Perseverance and commitment
Both are fundamental to achieving a new habit.
In the beginning it can be complicated, so you can manage your attention and focus on the benefits you will get in the medium-long term . It is important that the new habits you consider are affordable, positive and that you can measure your progress towards them.
We learn something new every day, it is not a question of unlearning those routines that make us uncomfortable or that we want to change, but of considering other alternatives that promote our personal development and provide us with well-being.
In UPAD Psychology and Coaching we help people in the generation and acquisition of new habits that will allow the client to achieve their goals obtaining high levels of satisfaction and welfare.