I learned how to ‘do’ Hatha yoga way back in my early twenties. I was rubbish at it, didn’t go to classes regularly, attempted it occasionally at home and only managed to stick to a daily practice when I was travelling in the States and probably only then as I was spending a lot of time on my bum otherwise. I couldn’t manage a proper downward dog and, because I wasn’t doing it regularly, generally felt a failure at it. I’d joke that I didn’t have a ‘yoga body’ but, you know, I did do yoga (I really didn’t).
More than twenty years on, I can now proudly say I’ve been ‘practicing’ yoga every day (more or less) for more than three years. Since last May, I’ve added daily meditation to my yoga practice (no coincidence that the meditation started the same time as a cancer scare – it was either start meditating everyday or spend a LOT of time in the loo (IBS sure does love stress!).
Yoga and mediation worked for me, what will work for you?
My practice isn’t very long, a max of 10-15 minutes of yoga and 3-12 minutes of meditation. That ‘yoga body’ will never be mine but that’s not the point for me. Even with my now fabulous HRT regime, aching limbs and a general feeling of sloth is so perimenopausal and so me that my daily yoga and meditation is keeping me stretchy, supple, and more importantly, giving me that me-space to allow me to chill the fuck out.
Now, why am I telling you all this? You might not give a monkeys about yoga or mediation. If you do, I highly recommend every single one of Yoga with Adriene’s videos and the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Centre’s guided meditations. If you don’t, maybe you want to figure out how to create a completely different habit that lasts, that becomes part of your daily routine to the point where you don’t feel comfortable in yourself when you don’t do it.
What to do when reading ‘how to create a habit’ books becomes your habit!
There are a ton of books out there all about how to create habits and yes, I’m one of the people that used to continually browse those books in bookshops, trying to figure out which book would be the answer to breaking my procrastination, to enabling me to create change in my life by giving me the ability to keep doing the same thing again and again and again, each time getting closer and closer to my end goal. But getting stuck into those books can just become a habit all of its own and you end up with a Bridget Jones-worthy pile of ‘how to’ books that you look at once and never pick up again.
I stopped looking at all those ‘how to’ books when I came across the X-Effect community on Reddit. I totally realise Reddit isn’t for everyone, it can be crass, opinionated, offensive – such is the world of anonymous forums. I curate my Reddit feed – I read succulents for tips on how to keep my plants alive, britishproblems for a good moan, screenwriting for, well, screenwriting tips, obvs. And, the forum that I stumbled upon which became so useful is the X effect.
How can the X Effect help you create and keep habits?
Well, several ways. Firstly, you can find lots of science to back up any claim as to how many days it actually takes to form a habit. I’m just letting you know about what worked for me – 49 days. 49 days to create a habit so that, once you’ve done something for 49 days, your brain wants you to keep doing it every day and gets a bit disgruntled or uncomfortable when you don’t do it.
The X Effect community on Reddit provides accountability for you and also, and this was key for me, doesn’t make you feel crappy if you don’t keep it up. I saw one post describing it thus: when you don’t do a day of your habit, the circle you add to your card or in the app is just like a shallow puddle, you step into it on that day but it’s easy enough to step out of that puddle again the next day. To me, that image took so much pressure off me to accomplish my habit. One day off, a few days off, a week off, no worries at all. It ain’t a race, it’s just a series of shallow puddles and, frankly, puddles can be fun to splash around in for a while.
The X Effect – old skool
As the Reddit forum states, just create a grid of 7×7 on an index card or piece of paper. Write your habit across the top. Write a big old X in a square when you do your ‘thing’, draw a big old 0 or circle when you don’t. So simple, no book required, no deep thought required, no beating yourself up for not achieving your ‘thing’ every day required. As much as I love index cards and paper (as a writer, I don’t see my notebook problem as a ‘problem’ per se, merely a habit!), this wasn’t going to work for me – where would I keep the piece of paper, which card was the grid on it, which of approximately 47,000 notebooks had I drawn the grid in?! Thankfully, a redditor solved my problem with an app
The X Effect – nu skool (ok, I’ll stop)
I’m not sure if Ryan Brooks fully realises just how many lives his app has helped, mine included. The 7 Weeks app for Android is free, simple and I’m a testament to it working! More than three years ago, I used it with the habit of ’20 mins yoga every day’ (not totally a SMART goal but I wanted to give myself the time to do my thing at any point each day, especially knowing how rubbish I can be in the mornings). I missed out quite a lot of days over 49 days so I did it again, 49 days of ’20 mins yoga every day’ and I did it! I also gained the support and accountability of the Reddit X Effect community while I was trying this. You don’t have to have anything to do with the Reddit forum if that’s not your bag, use the app by itself or ask a friend to be your accountability/support partner for you while you form your new habit.
It looks as though there’s also a 7 Weeks app for iOS but I’m not an Apple user, so do comment below if you download the iOS version and it works well for you.
What habits should you do?
As a life coach, I’m not going to criticise you if you decide your habit is going to be eating chocolate every day (though we may end up discussing how you feel this habit will help improve your life). But, creating habits is part of making change in your life so think about what habits you could instill now that will either serve you on your route to your goals or help you figure out your life with new goals. Do you want to ‘get fit’ – look at how to break that down into a SMART so that it’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. So, you decide you want to ‘no longer get out of breath climbing two flights of stairs’ or ‘run a 5k charity run in a year’s time’. If that’s your end goal, what habits can you use the X Effect for that will help you get there. I can think of quite a few:
‘Move’ for 40 minutes every day‘ – this could be a combination then of run/walk for that time twice a week, cycle for that time once a week, leave the office at lunchtime for a 40 minute walk. Breaking that big goal into smaller goals creates smaller goals that are then achievable by turning them into a habit.
‘Run/walk for twenty minutes every day‘ – you could include getting your running gear ready the night before as a habit as well as the actual running/walking so that each smaller goal helps your end goal become more achievable. You could also add ‘only one coffee’ every day as a habit.
I’m not a health/fitness coach but these are simple examples of how you can incorporate habits into achieving your goals – effectively keeping yourself coached long after you’ve met with me.
I’m habit-forming as I type
2020 is a big year of change for me. I’m leaving my bigger part-time job so that I can concentrate on developing my business and continually aiming for my goal of helping women create positive change and impact in their lives. I’ve downloaded the 7 Weeks app again and am on Day 1 of my new habit of ‘biz things every day’. See, here’s my social proof 😉
Big old X for today as I’ve just written this blog post. Every day, for 49 days, I’m going to be doing something for my business, beyond just retweeting fabulous people, tips and news (follow me on Twitter for all that delicious jam).
IF this post has peaked your interest in creating habits that last, download the 7 Weeks app, join the Reddit forum, get that index card out and draw yourself a 7×7 grid and let me know how it goes (comment below, contact me or tweet/IG me). Hopefully, if this post helps anyone, it’ll at least be my friend Frit who posted on Instagram today all about figuring out how to create and keep to a habit and I DM’d her all about the X Effect :). Go follow her, she’s ace.