white printer paper beside black computer for habit stacking.
| |

Habit Stacking Ideas to Make Reaching Goals Easier

I’ve always been someone who sets goals. Not to be confused with someone who always reaches their goals. Like many of you, I’m a work in progress.

Over time, I’ve discovered a little trick that has helped me achieve some of my most important goals. We’re talking flossing more (dental hygiene is no joke), strength training a few times a week (gotta keep those bones strong), and adding more anti-inflammatory foods to my diet (no one wants a body filled with inflammation).

This magical trick is habit stacking — building new habits by taking advantage of old ones.

What is Habit Stacking?

Habit stacking relies on your existing brain power. It’s all about using the strong synaptic connections we already have — those nifty places where neurons connect and communicate with each other. Essentially, you’re taking advantage of habits you’ve already established and piggybacking new habits onto them.

Imagine you’re building a habit sandwich. The bread is a habit you already have, like brushing your teeth. The inside filling is the new habit you want to add, like flossing. Voila! A delicious, healthy habit sandwich has been created.

Check out James Clear’s book ‘Atomic Habits — order on Amazon to learn more about how to implement this practice.

It’s refreshing not to have to work so hard for new habits to stick. Instead, you rely on what you already do!

gold pen on white box and habit stacking.

The Brain’s Way of Strengthening Important Connections

As you get older, your brain goes through a process called synaptic pruning. Synapses are the connections between brain cells (neurons). The brain removes connections that you don’t use often and strengthens the ones that you use a lot.

For example, if you played an instrument for 10 years, your brain will strengthen the connections between neurons involved in playing music. No surprise that the more you play, the stronger these relationships become.

Each time you practice, the connections also become faster and more efficient. As your brain builds these stronger and faster connections, you can play the instrument more easily and skillfully. This biological change helps you develop your skills.

So start small, be consistent, and begin habit stacking since synaptic pruning happens with every habit you build!

Habit Stacking Ideas

1. Flossing more frequently:

  • Existing habit: Brushing your teeth.
  • New habit: Flossing.
  • Habit stacking: Put your floss next to your toothbrush. Each time you brush, you floss right after. Your teeth and gums will thank you!

2. Starting a strength training practice:

  • Existing habit: Morning coffee.
  • New habit: Quick strength exercises.
  • Habit stacking: While your coffee is brewing, do a set of squats or push-ups. Build strength in your bones and muscles for improved health.

3. Adding anti-inflammatory foods:

  • Existing habit: preparing breakfast.
  • New habit: Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods.
  • Habit stacking: Add some turmeric to your eggs, toss a handful of berries into your oatmeal, or add some kale or spinach to your smoothie. Increased inflammation in the body can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
two bowls of oatmeal with fruits for habit stacking.

Adding Habit Stacking into Your Midlife Health Journey

Midlife is a fantastic time to reassess and refine your habits, especially as you manage menopause symptoms and embrace intuitive eating.

Here’s how to incorporate habit stacking into your health journey.

1. Manage menopause symptoms:

  • Existing habit: Evening relaxation.
  • New habit: Meditation, journaling, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Habit stacking: Just before you are about to start that favorite series you’ve been watching, spend 5 minutes (set a timer) to journal, meditate (use an app if this helps), or practice deep breathing. These are practices to calm your nervous system down and reduce cortisol (stress hormone) to tell your body you are safe. You can attach this activity to also be done before or after lunch if you have an especially stressful day.

2. Intuitive eating:

  • Existing habit: Eating meals.
  • New habit: Mindful eating.
  • Habit stacking: Before each meal, take a moment to breathe deeply and express gratitude for your food. This practice helps you get in tune with your fullness and hunger cues and learn to trust your body.

3. Regular exercise:

  • Existing habit: Daily walk.
  • New habit: Stretching
  • Habit stacking: After your walk, stay outside, and set a timer. Stretch for 10-15 minutes to improve flexibility and reduce tension.

4. Improve sleep:

  • Existing habit: Washing your face and moisturizing before bed.
  • New habit: Turning off devices and reading before bed.
  • Habit stacking: As you see it’s time to wash up for bed, turn off devices one hour before bed, and read a book you have on your nightstand (keep habits easy). This helps relax you and become sleepy. Getting 7-9 hours of good sleep will help you make better decisions about your health the next day.
orange tabby cat in his comfort zone hoping to get unstuck

Next Step

Be as specific as possible with your new habits. Start small but state when you will perform the new habit and for how long. If you want to incorporate stretching into your exercise routine, how many minutes will you do it for? Or how many push-ups will you do?

Stating you will read more or eat better is far too vague. Be specific and clear. The more closely you tie your new habit to a specific cue (existing habit), the better your chances of remembering to do it.

Learn more about creating healthy habits at my blog ‘How to Change Habits for the Better in Midlife‘.

Happy habit stacking!

Please reach out and let’s have a chat on a free discovery call to see how I can help you thrive and not just survive in midlife!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *