6 top tips for setting brain healthy habits that stick
We all know that forming good habits can seem difficult. But as a behavioural scientist, I study how we can change our behaviour, and I’m here to share my top tips for building healthy habits. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. With this in mind, consider these tips not as the recipe but as the ingredients required to build lasting brain healthy habits. Let’s get started!
- Understand your ‘why’: Take a moment to connect your brain health pledge to your personal values – why is taking this step to look after your brain meaningful to you? It’s worth considering and even writing down why it’s important for you to make this change and why now is the right time. This will help you set a clear direction.
- Be specific: What’s happening when we’re forming a new habit? Well, we’re effectively training our brain to automatically take action – no need to think. Research shows that we can do our brain a huge favour by being clear about what we aim to do, as well as when and where. The more specific we are, the better. For example, instead of saying, ‘I want to exercise more’, say, ‘I will walk for 15 minutes on weekdays at lunchtime’.
- Start small: You’ll hear this advice often, and for good reason. It’s tempting to bite off more than we can chew, but if you start too big or try to change too many things at once, you’re more likely to get overwhelmed and give up. Start with a tiny change, and then build on that. You can always do a bit extra if you have the time and energy – this will then feel even more rewarding.
- Identify your domino action: Habits are like dominoes – one falling often leads to the next following suit. Consider the first small action involved in your brain healthy habit; maybe it’s putting your gym clothes on or picking up your book to read. This is often all you need to focus on. A timely reminder goes a long way in making sure you remember to do your domino action. For example, put your gym clothes or book in a visible place, so you see them first thing in the morning.
- Find accountability and support:When you involve someone else in your habit, you’re more likely to stick to it. Why not tell friends or family about the change you want to make. Or better still, encourage someone you know to take a small step to look after their brain too. This way, you can support and encourage each other.
- Make it fun: We repeat things we enjoy. It’s as simple as that. Think about ways to make your brain health habit more fun. For example, if you want to learn a language, why not join a group class instead of learning solo (great for keeping connected too). Or if you want to get back into books but have a hard time sitting still, try listening to an audiobook.
Finally, a bonus tip; be patient. It’s said that ‘everything worthwhile takes time’, and the same is true for forming good habits. Don’t expect to see results overnight. Be patient, keep at it and you’ll be well on your way to developing lasting brain healthy habits.