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Five Tiny Mindfulness Habits That Have a Big Impact

By Kristen Manieri 

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it,” says renowned writer and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. What a paradox! Mindfulness—the act of bringing our attention into the present moment—is easy… if we’re mindful! 

It’s true that nearly anyone can cultivate the skill of mindfulness. In fact, most of us learn present-moment awareness without being formally educated in it, without ever being told what mindfulness is and why it matters. We have all experienced what it’s like when our attention returns to the moment we are actually in right now, regardless of how fleeting that particular moment of presence was. This is mindfulness. Easy. 

But try to build a mindful life—a life so steeped in present-moment awareness that mindlessness is battled nearly to extinction—not so easy. 

The good news is that we are all capable of more mindfulness when we make a commitment to practice more often. A reliable tool for regular practice is habits. Any activity we do with enough consistency to become automated no longer requires our focus or deliberateness. Once we habituate an activity, it becomes seemingly effortless. 

Using the power of habits, mindfulness can become effortless, too.

Whether your goal is to become more present or productive, compassionate or creative, it all starts with turning your awareness to the present moment. Mindfulness habits, coupled with the right intention and attention, dig mental grooves that allow you to return to your awareness and the present moment over and over again. 

When we merge the science of habits with the art of mindfulness, we discover a formula for a mindful life and a solution to Sharon Salzberg’s challenge. Mindfulness isn’t difficult. And we CAN remember to do it. We just need a little help. The following habits are a great place to get started. 

HABIT #1

30-Second Check-In

Mindfulness is a homecoming. So much of our day is focused on the exterior of our lives. When we slow down and pause, we’re invited to revisit and re-inhabit our inner world, even for just a few seconds. 

The practice of a 30-second check-in is simply pausing to tune in to the feelings, sensations and thoughts in the body and mind. Think of it like a weather report. Close your eyes and check in. Is it stormy, breezy, or sunny? Are you holding any tension or ruminating on any worries? 

Noticing what’s happening inside grants us an opportunity to tend to it. Are you thirsty, hungry or achy? What needs is the body asking to be filled? With our awareness turned inward we may notice anxiety, stress or frustration building. Maybe you need a break or to step away to get perspective. When we are mindful, we can choose to regulate ourselves, which helps us access the higher functions of the brain where our capacity to make good decisions and wise choices is stored. We become less of a knee-jerk reactor and more of a thoughtful responder. 

Try this: Start tiny! Close your eyes for 10 seconds and simply see what’s there. How do you feel? What are your dominant thoughts? What emotions are present? Notice what it feels like to return to yourself. 

Here’s a habit recipe you could try: 

After I use the restroom, I will close my eyes for 10 seconds and check in with myself. 

HABIT #2

Mindful Mealtime Pause

Put up your hand if you sit down to eat and just start mindlessly chowing down. If you could see me, you’d see my hand up, too. Meals are perhaps some of our most mindless moments. It’s tough to eat mindfully, but I find it gets easier when I begin my meals with the habit of taking a mindful pause. 

When I sit down to eat dinner, I close my eyes and let myself feel my hunger. This pause offers me the chance to feel very grateful for the food in front of me, all those who played a part in getting it to my table, and to appreciate how fortunate I am to have healthy food to eat. I find this pause also slows me down long enough to savor my food, at least the first few mindful bites. 

Here’s a habit recipe you could try: 

After I sit down to eat, I will close my eyes, pause and feel grateful. 

HABIT #3

Waiting in Gratitude

I had a terrible habit of checking my phone when I’m stopped at red lights and I really wanted to break it. As I learned from BJ Fogg, it’s much easier to replace a habit than to break one, especially one that we’ve been doing for a long time. 

So, I began the habit of placing my phone in my purse instead of in the center console. Having it out of reach lowered the temptation and removed the visual prompt. Then when I arrive at a red light, I take a moment to think of a few things I’m grateful for. 

Here are habit recipes you could try: 

After I get into the car, I will put my phone out of reach and out of sight. 

After I stop at a red light, I will think of three things I’m grateful for. 

HABIT #4

Three Deep Breaths

Without getting too much into the science, believe me when I say that just taking three deep breaths has a tremendous influence on your nervous system. We breathe short, shallow breaths when we’re stressed. It’s a way of our body getting us into a position for either flight or fight. 

The trouble is, we don’t typically face any real threats most of the time. But we think threatening thoughts, which make our body think that we’re in trouble. A good way to reset and to restore our inner peace and calm is to slow and deepen our breathing. 

Try this: Once a day, sit somewhere comfortably and close your eyes. Take a breath in through the nose to the count of five or six. Hold the breath for a second or two and then exhale through the mouth with a big sigh. Repeat this again two more times. 

What you’ll likely notice is a feeling of ease as your nervous system starts to register the signals that you’re safe and well. You might even say silently to yourself, “all is well.” This quick, little reset can help you power down at the end of the day, shift from work to family time, and can help you regulate your emotions when you’re feeling upset. 

Here are a few habit recipes you could try: 

After I get into bed at night, I will take three deep breaths. 

After I get into the car after work, I will take three deep breaths. 

HABIT #5

Mindful Hand-Washing

Handwashing is something we all (hopefully) do automatically and mostly mindlessly several times a day. This makes it a great anchor for a mindful moment! 

For this habit, you’ll still wash your hands as you normally do. The only difference is that you’ll wash them with your attention singularly focused on the task at hand rather than letting your mind wander or rushing through. 

I like to use this moment of presence to practice keeping my attention focused on something that’s pretty mundane. My mind isn’t really interested in focusing on washing my hands because it’s something I’ve already done a million times and I don’t need any special attention in order to do it correctly. Being with my mind as it naturally wanders away with thoughts of my day or what I’m going to do next is an interesting exercise in simply training my mind to stay present. And since I wash my hands about a dozen times a day, I get loads of practice. 

Try this: As you turn on the tap and put soap onto your hands, tune into the sensory experience (sight, sound, smell, touch) of this everyday practice of washing your hands. Allow yourself to drop deeply into the experience and really feel all the sensations you’re experiencing. Use this practice as a mini holiday in your day and a chance to come home to yourself, even for just 20 seconds. 

Here’s a habit recipe you could try: 

After I put soap on my hands, I will bring my full attention and awareness to the act of washing my hands. 

Making Habits Stick

If you’re up for it, pick just one of these habits to work on in the next week. Instead of aiming for a slam dunk, set the intention to simply learn about how you build habits. Troubleshoot and pivot rather than throw in the towel if a habit isn’t sticking. And remember, keep it tiny and easy. You can scale up your habit once it’s sticky. 

Feeling Forgetful or Distracted? 3 Strategies to Boost Your Memory and Increase Your Focus

Did you ever see a film back in 1995 called Johnny Mnemonic? Keanu Reeves playing the part of Johnny who was able to store huge amounts of information in his memory using a computer chip.

In reality our memories are nothing like computers, however back in the early 90’s the idea of having a super powered memory was something that instantly grabbed my attention for a number of reasons:

  1. For years I had a reputation for having an extremely bad memory
  2. I made a decision to work hard on not only improving my memory but taking it to a whole new level, so in that same year (1995), I competed in the World Memory Championships and was ranked as one of the first ever Grand Masters of Memory in the World (crazy title, I know!)
  3. Also, in 1995 I created a Game show called Monkhouse’s Memory Masters for the BBC that aired to 8 million people.

Off the back of the TV show I fell into working with real people with real challenges and got hooked.

So, what does it take to go from having no confidence in your memory to knowing you can learn and remember anything you put your mind to?

It’s an over simplification, however if I had to, I’d break it down into 3 steps

  1. Memory Mindset
  2. Tiny Habits®
  3. Creative Memorization

Get the Right Memory Mindset

If someone asked you, “Would you like to improve your memory by 500%?” what would you say?  My guess is, for most people, they would jump at the chance. I’ve personally heard people respond with a phrase like, “Yeh, I could really do with that!” However, the real impact of having a good memory is rarely thought about.

So what if we were to be more specific? What if someone said you could learn a new way of thinking that would deliver:

  • Confidence in your ability to remember anything
  • Focus to overcome mind wandering and procrastination
  • Skills to save time, filter and remember what was important
  • Talents to help you step up in your career
  • Beliefs to start your own business
  • Potential to grow your current business
  • Freedom to do what you love and become an expert in your field 

If someone said that you could achieve all of this, how would you respond? What different choices would you make going forward? What impact would it have in your life? What would be the best part of having a set of strategies that allowed you to do each one of these things?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with people from all walks of life at different stages, from students to professionals or CEOs and even actors. The first coaching session is always the most interesting as people are buzzed up to start learning memory techniques and tips, however that is never where I start and here’s why… most people don’t know why they want to improve their memory AND they have beliefs that don’t support them. So we always start with the mindset and get absolute clarity on:

  • How a better memory will change their life
  • Uncovering hidden challenges and beliefs that could slow them down, hold them back or stop them in their tracks
  • 5 to 10 options they are absolutely committed to trying in the next 7 days

There is a catch to all of this though; there are no quick fixes, magic pills or microchips (at least not yet) that instantly transform your ability to remember. It takes energy and commitment; this is where Tiny Habits® come in…

Tiny Habits® for Memory

When I first heard about Tiny Habits I got pretty psyched. My initial driver to try them out was to create some better health habits. Since starting Tiny Habits I’ve gone from an erratic (every now and then) 20 minute morning workout to a 2 hour ritual that gets my mind and body in peak state for the day.

During my first conversation with BJ Fogg, he suggested I could use this method with my clients, so I decided to give it a go and trained as a coach. Shortly after I began introducing Tiny Habits for Memory and Focus to my clients and they loved them. They found it a simple way to introduce new techniques into their lives and it also helped create momentum when they hit a learning curve.

It was as if by creating these Tiny Habits they were not only planting the seeds for each of the strategies I shared, these seeds were taking root so it was easier for them to grow the larger behaviors they could actually use in real life situations.

Here is a simple example of a Tiny Habits for Memory

After I wake up in the morning
I will memorize 3 items
Then you celebrate to help the habit take root

Here’s the key though, you don’t just memorize by picking 3 items and repeating them over and over again in your mind, you get creative! For example let’s imagine your 3 items are a chair, plant and mobile phone.

You might imagine:

You give a chair to a plant that needs to make an urgent phone call.

This is called a Chain Story and you can create something like this in about 10 seconds. The interesting thing is, it’s very hard to forget.

Let’s ramp it up, look at these 9 items and try to remember them:

I created this using Rory’s Story Cubes

Now Imagine this: you are playing with the abacus and a key falls out, you use it to get inside the plane, which is caught by a giant hand that gives you the padlock. You shrink and jump inside and fall all the way through to a tree, you fall asleep and are woken up by lightning. You see the masks!

By doing the Tiny Habit above (with just 3 items) you start conditioning your brain to use this strategy more automatically.

Once you master this technique, its application goes way further than just simple items; you can use it to remember key points in a presentation, facts from a meeting, details about people, conversations and combined with a few other strategies even whole books!

Tiny Habits® for Focus

An essential ingredient to having greater memory retention and recall is the skill to instantly be in the moment. As someone who was a professional actor for many years this was intrinsic in being able to learn large scripts, let go of anxiety and remain confident. A large part of what I share with people is this skill of really getting into that state of flow. Here’s a very simple Tiny Habit to set you on the right path. I call these primer questions:

Example of Tiny Habits for Focus

After I finish my breakfast
I will ask myself, “what is the one thing I will give my focus to today?”
Celebrate

The purpose of this primer question is to turn on your internal radar to pay attention to the thing that is most important for you ‘today’. It is all too easy to be distracted by technologies and other peoples agenda, so by explicitly asking yourself a question along these lines every morning can bring real focus to your day.

By creating Tiny Habits for each of the Memory and Focus strategies you can incorporate them into your life so much easier.

So we’ve talked about facilitating the right mindset and creating Tiny Habits that will build real momentum. There is a primary ingredient that we still need to achieve some of the outcomes we went through at the beginning of this post. You have already had a taster of this when memorizing those 9 items earlier; I call this Creative Memorization.

Creative Memorization

The idea behind Creative Memorization isn’t just about remembering. It is about experiencing a deep level of learning. To truly learn, you have to create; with creation and use comes understanding. You move from a place of knowing something intellectually to having something in your body – this is what creative memorization feels like.

Creative memorization is not a passive form of remembering but a way of thinking that is results-focused and draws on each of your memory types (episodic, semantic, procedural, emotional, priming, conditioned response), looking for creative ways to make anything more memorable so you can put it into practice.

Before you jump into the complex stuff, with any new skill you need to master the basics. Try this well known strategy called the Chain Method. Here’s an example I usually start with to get people going. There are 15 main items in this story. Read the story 2-3 times and each time imagine it more vividly in your mind than the time before…

Big Ben is wearing a fur coat and bouncing up and down on a springboard. He dives into a large pot of honey, and out of the honey comes a dinosaur wearing a red baseball cap and swinging a baseball bat. It starts smashing up a Ferrari with the baseball bat. Driving the Ferrari is Tom Cruise, who is smoking a huge cigar. Tom looks over to his right and stubs out the cigar on the head of a bald man. The bald man is eating a big sticky Mars bar, and wrapped around the Mars bar is a slimy snake, playing the drums and drinking a bottle of Budweiser.

Drop a comment below letting me know how well you got on!

Where to start?

Over the last 5 years I’ve written a number of books to help people build their skills in this area. For some people a book is enough and for others they are looking for something more, that could be some personal 1-1 coaching or online video training they can complete at their own pace to step up in their career, make the leap to start a business or just feel like they have the freedom to do the thing they love.

There’s a whole bunch of resources and courses you can find here. If you really want to take things to the next level then check out: Tiny Habits for Focus and Productivity

Feel free to ping your questions to me!

While Johnny Mnemonic is still science fiction, the potential of having an outstanding memory is absolutely a reality. All it takes is the right mindset, tiny habits, and some killer strategies.

Ready to celebrate your success? Get our killer list of 102 Ways to Celebrate here!

The Contributor: Mark Channon

www.markchannon.com

Are Your Habits Hurting Your Brain? Part 1

If you’re hoping to foster new habits this year that will increase your health and happiness, we’re here to help. Daily exercise, meditation, and even flossing can boost your brain health, but not all habits work in your favor. You probably already know that smoking, sugar and a sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular and cognitive functioning, but what about your drive to work or your morning crossword?

Making Healthy Actions Automatic

Habits and routines give our lives structure and direction. Turning healthy behaviors into habits is important because you want to follow through on those actions even when your motivation is low. That’s one reason the Tiny Habits method is so successful. Often those habits become part of our daily routines, and are so engrained we don’t even have to think about them. In general, that’s a good thing. However, you certainly don’t want to go through life on auto-pilot. Your brain craves novelty and challenge to stay sharp and agile.

Pathways in the Forest

Every new thought or experience sends a tiny spasm of electricity that stimulates dendritic growth and expands your brain volume. Dendrites are like tiny pathways through your brain, and the more of them you have, the greater your cognitive reserve. If a thought or action is repeated, the pathway becomes stronger and it takes less effort to send a signal through. “Neurons that fire together wire together,” as neuroscientists say, and this is exactly how habits are formed: by repeatedly following a trigger with an action, that pathway is solidified in the brain and the action becomes more automatic each time.

Building Cognitive Reserve

Establishing strong pathways that reinforce healthy habits is a good thing. However, you don’t want your brain to become so accustomed to its most well-worn pathways that stagnation sets in. As we age, the plaques and tangles that cause Alzheimer’s disease can choke off even the most established of routes. If one pathway becomes bogged down, it’s good to have plenty of other options. As you continue to learn new things and challenge yourself throughout your life, you increase your cognitive reserve, creating a brain that is both resilient and adaptable.

This Is Your Brain On Novelty

Psychologists call it the “novelty response”, and in some ways it’s the opposite of a habit. Where a habit is so engrained you don’t even have to think about it, a novel experience requires your attention and engagement, but this is precisely why it’s so effective. When you challenge yourself to learn a new word every day, cook a new recipe or take a new class, you activate new neural networks that keep your brain alert and engaged. For the best results, be sure there’s a method to the madness. Build novelty into your day by periodically establishing new habits that challenge your brain in new ways.

Building cognitive reserve doesn’t have to be costly or time-intensive. Come back tomorrow to learn how you can increase your cognitive reserve on your drive to work or even in the shower. Click here to join our groundbreaking new course, Habits for Brain Health. This live, interactive course combines the Tiny Habits method with powerful, practical recipes for keeping your brain sharp now and throughout your life.

A Surprisingly Simple Way to Make Your Holiday More Meaningful

Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re joining us from outside the United States, we invite you to celebrate the holiday with us by taking a moment to reflect on the many people and things that bless your life each day.

We tend to focus a lot on habits that happen once or even multiple times per day, but some of the most memorable and meaningful times in our lives come around only once a year. Your day-to-day habits can impact the way you experience a holiday, but you can also create habits that are specific to special occasions.

Some of your more frequent habits can prepare you for a holiday experience. If you’ve established a habit of meditation, you may be more present and focused on the moment when spending time with loved ones. If you routinely list or express gratitude, you may be primed to enjoy a holiday like Thanksgiving with an open and thankful heart.

Creating a Holiday Tiny Habit requires that you think about what you want to get out of the celebration. For many of us, we want to connect deeply with our family members and create warm, lasting memories. Unfortunately, many holidays are spent rushing around recording the day through the lens of a camera or smart phone. For a richer, more intentional holiday, put your phone down and focus on savoring each moment. Consider habits that require you to draw on multiple senses; pay attention to the colors, textures, smells and sounds around you. Sample holiday habits include:

When I greet each friend/relative I will make eye contact for 3 seconds.
After I take off my coat I will hug or shake hands with each person.
When I sit down to the meal I will look at each dish on the table.
After I place my napkin on my lap I will think of one thing I am grateful for.
When I lift the fork to my mouth I will inhale the aroma of the food.

By engaging your senses, you also engage your brain and allow it to create “stickier”, more lasting memories. Smell in particular is linked closely with memory and emotion, so the old adage to “stop and smell the roses” is more than just a cliche. As you can see, many of these recipes can also become daily habits, encouraging you to focus on each experience and be fully present in each moment.

What Do You Mean By Dance?

By Robin Zander

My friend Ben Weston teaches men to dance. He even gave a TED talk about why it is a problem in the world that men don’t dance more, which I highly recommend.

Personally, I have taken a different extreme and train classical ballet, about as far from dancing in bars as it is possible to get while still sharing the term “dance.”

I learned to dance as an adult, and did so with a lot of unnecessary stress. It need not be so hard for others, and I’ve lately begun exploring why people who want to dance more regularly don’t do so. One of the conclusions is that that most of us are too narrow in how we define dance.

Dance can be anything

  • Classical ballet
  • Zumba
  • Pre-work dance parties
  • Aerial silks
  • Dancing in bars
  • My mother’s aerobics class
  • West Coast Swing classes
  • Dancing around your kitchen in your socks

Let’s redefine dance

Instead, by setting the definition of dance as something beyond our reach, many of us have set ourselves up for failure. It isn’t enough to hold hands and dance in the kitchen, or even take a west coast swing dance class. We have to aim high. We don’t dance because we look silly, forgetting that is can be learned in any environment including the privacy of our own homes.

Set your goals lower. Don’t worry about bolstering your motivation and “trying harder.” Make your success easy and often. Redefine dance to be something you can do with ease and will enjoy. Start there, and more will follow.

I have begun to coach people in how to dance every day, regardless of what kind or what that dancing looks like. If you’re interested in learning how to dance every day, email me at robin@robinpzander.com.

Start To Dance Every Day (By Starting Small)

By Robin Peter Zander

I am currently dancing classical ballet about 20 hours each week and am about to start a gig performing with the San Francisco Opera. Regularly, I hear some version of admiration followed by self-denial, like: “That’s great that you dance so much. I have two left feet.”

I always say the same thing: “You can, too.” To begin dancing, start simply. It doesn’t have to be complicated. 

The 7 Simple Steps To Dance

  1. Make sure you are alone in a room. No one is watching you.
  2. Turn on a song that you know well and enjoy.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. No, really: close your eyes!
  5. Listen to the music.
  6. Begin moving in any way to the music that you hear
  7. Pay attention to how you are moving – both how it feels and what you are actually doing
  8. Congratulations, you just danced!

We make “dance” to mean performing under pressure or doing something that is incredibly hard. While these things are fine desired outcomes, they are much to big to begin with. We have to start small, in order to quickly proceed to bigger and lofier goals. So play some music, close your eyes, and move. That counts and having done so, you’ve danced today! Congratulations!

There’s much more to how to dance regularly, and I’ll be following up with posts about other things that people use to hold them back.

I have begun to coach people (for free) in how to dance every day. BJ and I interested in people who want to dance everyday but don’t. If you are interested in FREE coaching on this, join the Facebook group or fill out our brief Dance Every Day survey.

Three Reasons Why Change Is Easier Than You Think

Kim Avery, MA, PCC

I tried everything. I bribed, threatened, coaxed, prodded, and coached myself to start exercising again but to no avail.

After some major life transitions, I had fallen off the exercise wagon, and five years later it looked like I’d never get back on.

I was sad. And frustrated.

I am a mature (relatively speaking), functioning, working adult.  In fact, I’m a Professional Certified Coach who specializes in helping people make and sustain lasting change.  And I’ve experienced great success both in my own life and the lives of my clients.

But like most people, there were still a few pockets of life that stubbornly resisted my efforts at reform.

Until…

The Missing Link

Until I stumbled on a small, playful tool that proved to be the missing link in my earnest quest.  Tiny Habits.

What are Tiny Habits?  Developed by Stanford researcher, B. J. Fogg, Tiny Habits create behavior change by tapping into the power of the environment and baby steps.

It doesn’t sound powerful, does it? Like something that could shift entrenched mindsets and behaviors we’ve clung to for years?

But it can. And for me, and thousands of others, it has.

Here’s why:

  1. Motivation Not Required

Don’t get me wrong when I say motivation isn’t required.  We have to want to change. That’s the whole purpose of change; we want something to be different.

But that fickle mood we call motivation, the one that fluctuates based on time of day, hormones, stress, peers and 1,000 other things, is unreliable and unsustainable over a long period of time.

When I relied on motivation alone to move me to exercise again, I often spent as much time trying to motivate myself as I did on the exercise.

Thankfully, Tiny Habits doesn’t assume we’ll have a steady stream of motivation, will power or self-discipline. And that’s very good news.

  1. A Tiny Habit is so Easy There’s No Reason NOT to Do It

Our culture applauds the notion of taking massive action to make massive change. It’s inspiring. Visionary. Bold.

But while the idea of massive change may be compelling, the reality is not.  Very few people succeed in rewiring their lifelong habits no matter how motivated they are. In Alan Deutschmann’s book Change or Die, he cites a study of heart patients who’ve been told they must change their lifestyles or risk dying, yet only one in ten could make the lasting changes. In other words, 90% failed.

Tiny Habits takes the opposite approach.  Instead of figuring out a way to make people try harder, BJ Fogg has found a way to make change a lot easier.  All you have to do is identify an existing behavior and then add to it one tiny, new behavior – something that you can accomplish in 30 seconds or less.  The new behavior should be so benign that even if you are stressed, hurried or sick, you’d still be willing to do it.  For example, floss one tooth (that’s right, just one) after you brush your teeth, take one sip of water every time you sit down to eat, or recall one thing to be grateful for when your head hits the pillow at night.

It doesn’t get any easier than that.

When picking a Tiny Habit to help me integrate exercise back in to my life, I chose to lay out my exercise clothes after I got ready for bed at night.  That’s it.  While targeting that behavior, the goal wasn’t to put those clothes on the next morning or to go to the gym – just lay out my clothes the night before.

I can do that. And I did. Because it was so easy to do.

  1. Success Breeds Success

One reason change is so hard is because we’ve failed at it so many times.  In our innermost selves, many of us have come to believe we can’t change. It’s too difficult. We’re too undisciplined. It simply can’t be done.

Successfully changing even the tiniest of behaviors challenges that false belief.  Take a regular, common habit, brushing your teeth, for example, and pair it with a super-simple, super-fast new behavior, such as flossing one tooth.  After 5 days of flossing that tooth, you’ll begin to see that you can keep the commitments you make to yourself.  You really can do new things.  And do them well.  So, why stop at one tooth? You might as well add in the other teeth, too.

Before you know it, you are the rare, the few, you are a flosser!

That’s success momentum.

For me, success momentum turned something as simple as laying out my exercise clothes each night into a five-day-a-week training program. That training program has been so successful that next month I’ll be competing in the first half marathon I’ve done in five years.

Clearly, my behavior has changed; but more than that, I’ve changed. I think about myself differently.  I am an exerciser. I am a person who can create and sustain lasting change.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

It’s Your Turn

What areas of your life have stubbornly resisted change? Give Tiny Habits a try.  It has the power to change what you do; and when you change what you do, you change who you are.

How to Find Your Natural Celebration… Without Even Trying

About half of the people doing Tiny Habits have a hard time with the celebration step. I wish this were easier for people. Why? Because that’s how you make your new behavior automatic: You fire off positive emotions right after you’re doing the behavior (or while you’re doing it). That’s the role of celebration.

We have many ways in our culture to tell ourselves we’ve done a bad job. But we don’t have many ways to say, “Good for me!” And I think that’s why celebration strikes people as awkward or unnatural.

You DO have a celebration. You may not call it that, and you may not yet recognize what you do to self-reinforce. But if you’re reading this optional stuff in my sandbox http://www.tinyhabits.com/sandbox/, I guarantee you have a celebration. This has helped you achieve. It’s helped go beyond the minimum requirements.

To find your natural celebration, imagine yourself in a big tennis match. To win the final point, you hit an excellent shot. Imagine that scene vividly. What is your natural reaction?

The answer should give you a clue about what celebration is natural for you.

I have many celebration types I use, from physical movement to phrases to sound effects. I see it as a collection I can draw from to fit the occasion.

I predict that in 5 years this idea of self-celebrating won’t seem weird. It will start to become the norm for people who are interested in improving their lives.

Learn Handstands with the Tiny Habits Method

Taking small steps is the fastest way to progress in any new skill. Unfortunately, handstands are almost never taught according to this dictum. Especially with a physical feat as unusual as standing or walking on your hands, every student and most teachers want the outcome, the end result of balancing upside down, very quickly. It is human nature to see a goal and attempt to accomplish that outcome now. But in the case of handstands, this push impedes progress.

Make Learning Easier

There are two ways to adopt new behaviors: increase motivation or decrease the barrier for entry. As a fitness trainer, I have seen that the primary way people are “encouraged” to get more fit is through pressure and guilt. This results in gym goers feeling guilty for not ever using their memberships. The same holds true for handstands. Many more people want to learn handstands than actually take the time to break down handstands into the component, learnable parts, and practice them regularly enough to achieve mastery.

Take Baby Steps

Consider how infants learn to walk: they take innumerable, incremental steps, while maintaining a sweet curiosity that keeps them from becoming overwhelmed. If you fail repeatedly and then get frustrated you will be slower to achieve your ultimate goal. Instead we will examine all of the incremental steps that make up learning handstands, just like an infant learns to scoot, crawl, and cruise before walking freely on her own. Have patience, and follow the steps. If you do, you will learn your fearless handstands very quickly!

Watch this video to understand the value of learning the component parts of a handstand: http://bit.ly/X4O4ze

Make Practice Easy

Handstands are quite easy to learn when practiced as component parts. Instead of just forcing an inversion and hoping for the best, the baby steps that make up a handstand can be practiced incrementally as simple habits built into daily life.

If you are interested in learning more about how to practice the incremental steps of learning handstands, download your free copy of the 4-Week Guide to Mastering Fearless Handstands.

Tiny Habit Handstand Recipes

After I get out of bed in the morning, I will place both hands on the ground.

I like “place both hands on the ground” as a new behavior because it is so simple and effortless to do. It takes practically no time. It is a tiny behavior that can stand alone as a part of practicing handstands, but it can also grow into more complex movements like moving around on all fours, or actually being upside down.

After I eat breakfast, I will move around on all fours.

“Moving around on all fours” is something every toddler does but most of us as adults have forgotten. By its nature it is playful. I choose the kitchen because there is usually space in the kitchen for some more dynamic movement. This behavior, too, is a complete habit by itself, but can also grow into more complete handstands.

After I brush my teeth at night, I will imagine myself being upside down.

This habit is a good nighttime activity because it is quieter than the previous two, while still in the direction of learning to do a handstand. By imagining the activity without actually doing it, we practice the desired behavior without much of the physical limitations that might otherwise standing in the way. Additionally, imagining practice provides useful insight into the nature of our fears of being upside down.

To learn about all of the steps necessary to learn to balance a handstand, watch the videos of those incremental steps on YouTube: http://bit.ly/1uBoqQ7

How To Balance a Fearless Handstand

If you are interested in learning more about all of the pieces necessary to balance a handstand, I’ve recently published a short e-book on this topic. Using the Tiny Habits Method, I’ve been able to refine my own handstands and teach this skill to hundreds of others. Learn more at http://www.fearlesshandstands.com.

What Do Tangled Ropes and Breaking Habits Have in Common?

What Do Tangled Ropes and Breaking Habits Have in Common?

I don’t specialize in breaking habits. The process, I’ve long believed, is different from creating new habits. But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve had some insights about breaking habits.

Let me start with a metaphor: the “Tangle”

Imagine you have a rope that is tangled in a big knot. How would you get out the tangle?

First of all, you would *not* expect to suddenly have the tangle vanish, no matter how much you wanted it so. Instead, you would take a slow and steady approach. And you’d probably start with the most accessible part of the tangle first, then work your way to tangles that are deeper. Eventually, you would be free of the tangle. Your result came from solving one problem, then another, then another. Baby steps.

I’m starting to believe this is a good metaphor for undoing bad habits. When it comes to something like smoking, or procrastinating, or overeating, those are not single behaviors. They are a mesh of interlocking behaviors, like a tangle. And you can’t resolve them all at once. You must work on the myriad behaviors, changing them one by one until the habit “tangle” is resolved. In other words, planning and patience matter. Shame and guilt are useless.

Let me give an example:

(Warning: I’ve never been a smoker, and I’ve never coached anyone to quit smoking, so this example may not be accurate.)

I suspect that the smoking habit starts tiny and it multiplies. Eventually, smoking is really a bunch of tiny habits, not a single habit.

People who are trying to break the “habit” of smoking (I used quotes because I think we need to have a better word for this tangle) usually have to break a bunch of specific habits related to smoking. For example, smoking during a morning work break is different from smoking with friends at the bar. Those are different behaviors.

If I were coaching someone to quit (again, I have no experience here, so indulge me, okay?), I would use the tangle metaphor and I would have them identify the simplest snarl they can iron out first. Perhaps that would be smoking during the work break. Once you’ve replaced that habit with something else, move on to the next smoking snarl, and so on. For the toughest snarl (perhaps smoking at a bar with friends), I’d say save that for later, just as you’d save the deepest tangle for late in the process.

I’m going to keep thinking about this metaphor. I like that it helps people see that a bad “habit” is more than one behavior. And I like that the tangle metaphor helps people see they need to plan and persist — and that each snarl you undo gets you closer. The fact that you can’t untangle everything at once is okay. And therefore, you shouldn’t feel bad. You should just keep going, seeking a series of small successes.

In that way, my work on Tiny Habits may have a lot in common with breaking bad habits. I didn’t think that way a year ago, but now I’m at least going to give it more thought.