It's often a lot easier to start some new life-enhancing habits than it is to keep it going,
"The Seven Rs"is an effective tool that psychologists use to help clients keep up with new behaviours between sessions.
Let's take a look at each:
If you don't see it, you will forget about it
We can create simple tools to help remind us of the new behaviours we wish to persist with.
For example, creating a pop-up or a screen saver on our laptop with an important word or phrase that reminds us to act mindfully or to utilise a particular value. Hanging a white board in the office to keep a to-do list is one of my clients' favourites.
We can keep a record of our behaviour throughout the day, noting down when and where we do the new behaviour, and what the benefits are; and also when and where we do the old behaviour, and what the costs are. Any diary or notebook – on paper, or on a computer screen – can serve this purpose.
We can help to reinforce the new behaviour with additional rewards. One form of reward is kind, encouraging self-talk, e.g. saying to yourself: ‘Well done. You did it!’
Another form of reward is sharing your success and progress with a loved one who you know will respond positively. Some people might even prefer more material rewards. For example, if you sustain this new behaviour for a whole week, you buy or do something that you really like, e.g. get a massage or buy yourself a new hand bag.
If you get up every morning at the same time to meditate or exercise or do yoga, over time that regular routine will become habitual. In other words, you won’t have to think so hard about doing it; it will start to come naturally; it will require less ‘willpower’.
It’s easier to study if you have a ‘study-buddy’; easier to exercise if you have an ‘exercise-buddy’.
So can you find a kind, caring, encouraging person who can help support you with your new behaviour? Maybe you can check in with this person on a regular basis, and tell them how well you are doing, or maybe you can use the other person as a Reminder; ask them to remind you to do the new behaviour, if and when that would be useful. For example, you might say to your partner, ‘When you see me eating snacks, can you please remind me to stop and go for a walk?’.
Regularly take time to reflect on how you are behaving, and what effect it is having on your life. You can do this via writing it down – Records, or in discussion with another person – Relationships. Or you can do this as a mental exercise throughout the day, or just before you go to bed, or just as you’re waking up in the morning.
You simply take a few moments to reflect on questions such as: ‘How am I going?’, ‘What am I doing that’s working?’, ‘What am I doing that’s not working?’, ‘What can I do more of, or less of, or differently?’
We can often restructure our environment to make our new behaviour easier, and therefore more likely to sustain. For example, if the new behaviour is ‘healthy eating’ we can restructure the kitchen to make that easier: get rid of or hide away the junk food, and stock the fridge and pantry with the healthy stuff.
If we want to go to the gym in the morning, we could pack up our sports-gear in our gym-bag, and place it by the side of the bed or somewhere else obvious and convenient, so it’s all ready to go as soon as we get up. (And of course, when we see our gym kit lying there, it acts as a Reminder.)