What is habit stacking?
Habit stacking is a tool that can help you develop new habits and change old ones. It's a straightforward and effective approach that uses an existing habit as a cue or reminder to trigger the new habit, making it easier to remember and establish. Put simply, it involves creating an association between two habits, so that one becomes linked in your mind with the other.
If you've ever built a music playlist in Spotify or any other music streaming app, you can easily see how habit stacking works. After you've played your playlist chronologically, the songs become associated, so that when one song ends and the next begins, you can easily remember what comes next.
Habit stacking is more than just doing one thing after another; it's about creating meaningful associations between different activities and behaviors that will make them easier for us to remember and incorporate into our lives on a regular basis.
How effective is habit stacking?
It is a highly effective. It works on the basis that by connecting a new habit to an existing one, it is more likely to stick and naturally become part of the rest of your daily routine. This is especially useful when making positive lifestyle changes such as increasing physical exercise, boosting mental health, creating better sleep habits, and adopting healthy eating habits.
An analogy used to explain why habit stacking works is the idea of a "domino effect". When one domino falls, it knocks down the next one in line. In the same way, when you connect a new habit with an existing one, you create an environment where each action naturally leads into another creating an effortless flow.
There's are two great books that covers habits and habit stacking that we highly recommend:
- "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. It's definitely worth a read if you're looking for more information on this effective technique.
- "Tiny Habits" by BJ Fogg, which discusses how to use the tiny habits method to form new habits.
"Habit stacking is not a miracle cure for forming good habits overnight, but with consistent action you will help as your brain prunes pathways and develops neural connections that make behaviors automatic."
Habit stacking examples
To give you some ideas of how to use habit stacking, here are some examples of habits you could possibly incorporate into your life:
For morning routine habit formation
Make the bed — verbalize daily affirmations: Starting your day off by making your bed sets the tone for an organized and productive morning. Following it up with verbalizing positive affirmations is a great way to prime yourself mentally and emotionally to take on the day.
Drink lemon water – stretch: Drinking warm lemon water helps rehydrate and increases energy levels, as well as stimulates digestion. Following this up with stretching helps get your body warmed up and prepped for whatever the day throws at you.
Do 10 minutes of low-impact exercise – take a cold shower: Exercise releases endorphins and increases energy levels, so even just 10 minutes can make a big difference in how you feel. Taking a cold shower afterwards boosts metabolism, increases circulation, reduces stress levels, and helps improve sleep quality.
Eat a healthy breakfast – review goals: Eating a nutritious meal in the morning gives your body the fuel it needs to tackle its tasks for the day. Following that up with reviewing your goals allows you to stay focused on what’s most important.
Practice mindful breathing – make a gratitude list: Taking a few minutes to practice mindful breathing can help you jumpstart your day in an intentional and peaceful way. Following it up with writing down three things you’re grateful for can help set the tone for an overall positive mindset throughout the day.
For evening routine habit formation
Turn off the TV for the evening - power down mobile phone: It's important to create a tech-free zone in the evenings, so powering down your TV and phone helps create an atmosphere of peace and relaxation for the night. Not only will this reduce distractions and stress, but it also helps conserve energy.
Dim the lights in your bed room – read a book before bed: Reading a book before bed is a great way to wind down and relax after a long day. Dimming the lights can help you get into a relaxed mindset while reading, as well as allowing your eyes to adjust to darkness that much more quickly when it’s time to turn in for the night.
Make tea or coffee – journal: Making yourself a cup of tea or coffee can be a wonderful way to set aside some self-care time once dinner is done and dishes are put away. Then use that time with your hot drink of choice to reflect on your day by journaling your thoughts or writing down any ideas that came up during dinner conversation.
Unplug from social media – stretch or meditate: Taking some time away from social media gives us space to pay attention inwardly and connect with ourselves instead of getting lost in other people’s lives. Following this unplugging session with stretching or meditation allows us to further practice mindfulness and stay connected within our own body, breath, and spirit.
Drink chamomile tea – listen to calming music: Chamomile tea is known for its calming effects on both mind and body, making it perfect for pre-sleep ritual! Pairing a cup of chamomile tea with some gentle music helps create an atmosphere conducive for restful sleep, which is essential for feeling recharged in the morning.
Lay out your clothes for the next morning — Write a to do list for what you want to accomplish the next day: Taking a few minutes to lay out your clothes for the next day can help you save time in the morning and feel organized. Following that up with writing down any tasks or errands for the next day helps keep you on track, as well as serves as an effective way to prioritize what needs attention first.
You get the gist. By stacking habits together, you can create a more effective and efficient routine that will help you reach your create the lifestyle you desire. Start with mini habits and practice each habit combination until it becomes second-nature before adding the next one.
Creating your habit stacking strategy
Creating your own habit stacking formula is a great way to establish new habits that can help improve your life. By linking a new habit you want to form with an existing habit, you are more likely to successfully maintain the new behavior because it becomes part of something that’s already become part of your daily regimen. To create an effective strategy for yourself, follow these steps:
1.) Identify the current habit that you want to link the new habit to. This could be anything from brushing your teeth in the morning, making your bed once you get out of it, or having breakfast before leaving for work. Choose something that is repeated regularly throughout the week and achievable within a reasonable amount of time.
2.) Decide on a new habit that can be easily done together with the existing one, something small and manageable like doing ten push ups after brushing your teeth, or reading one page in a book when getting out of bed. Focus on tasks that are achievable quickly and will not take away too much time from other activities in the day.
3.) Once you have identified both habits, write down the habit stack in this format: “After [existing habit], I will do [new habit].” This will make it easier for you to remember them and also keep track of how often you are completing each action on a daily basis.
4.) Implement the newly formed stack by consistently following through with both actions every day - this is key to creating successful habits as repetition is essential for forming new behaviors! After some time has passed, review your progress and adjust accordingly if needed - maybe add more challenging tasks as you become better at completing them! Finally, reward yourself for every achievement made along the way as this will serve as motivation for keeping up with each task in order to reach desired goals faster.
Developing your habit stacking routine takes intention so be sure to carefully pair habits that compliment each other when you first start out.
Habit stacking uses your existing habits to help you form new ones. By linking a desired behavior to something that already part of your daily routine, it’s easier to maintain and also allows for quicker progress towards achieving goals.
Remember to start with small habits to make it easier to complete and reduce the risk of burning out. Writing down your habit stack in this format: “After _____, I will do ______” is a great way to stay organized and motivated. Finally, reward yourself for every achievement made throughout the process as this will help you stay on track and reach desired goals faster.