Five tips for building lasting habits
Building lifelong habits is hard. Starting with a set routine makes it easier.
At JUNOFEM, we talk about adherence a lot. But what does that mean, exactly?
In the medical community, in simple terms, adherence refers to the patient continuing an agreed-upon mode of treatment in their own time. For femfit® users and the team here at JUNOFEM, adherence simply means sticking to the 12-week programme. We define this as at least three exercise sessions per week, and ideally five.
While five sessions a week may sound like a lot, we know this programme works for women with incontinence as it's been tested in a randomised control trial. And we also know that the secret to achieving symptom resolution lies in completing your weekly exercises consistently and regularly—which looks a lot like building a habit.
But alas, sticking to anything is hard. Habits don't come naturally—we're all human beings, at the end of the day. And while Instagram may be bursting with quick hacks, the expert advice is clear—there are no shortcuts when it comes to habit formation. The process can certainly be made easier with advancements in technology and a consistent user experience (enter femfit®—but more on that later).
The key to building long-lasting, or even lifelong habits is all about taking small steps and making incremental progress. And this all starts with a good routine.
Routines vs. habits
It's easy to confuse routines with habits, but there are some key, important differences.
In this Harvard Business Review piece, Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, says that conflating the two is common, and this often leads to disappointment:
“When we fail at forming new patterns of behaviour, we easily blame ourselves. This is often the result of receiving bad advice from someone who doesn’t understand what can and cannot become a habit in the first place.”
So what's the difference?
Habits are the things we do with little or no thought, like brushing our teeth before bed. Routines are a series of frequent behaviours that we repeat, intentionally over time. Any behaviour has to be performed regularly, in a routine, before it can become a habit at all.
Creating a routine with femfit®
You might have guessed that the 12-week Strength Builder programme is all about routine, and the programme has certainly been designed with incremental progress in mind. The real-time feedback and the ability to map your progress can be great motivational drivers as you move through the programme.
Motivation doesn't always come easy though (that whole being human thing again!), so we've adapted the Harvard Business Review approach to come up with five key tips for building lasting habits, especially when you're working towards something longer-term like our 12-week programme.
1. Ask yourself why you're here
It might sound obvious, but it can be really helpful to acknowledge that the steps you're taking are in view of achieving a specific goal. Try setting your intentions—if you'd love to run around and kick a soccer ball with your kids without worrying about leaking, that's a great place to start. Tying your goals to real-world experiences can increase your chances of sticking the path.
2. Prepare for setbacks
Self-doubt can be really toxic. Maybe you've tried a different approach in the past, but you stopped before you saw any progress. Or perhaps you got sick and simply couldn't exercise. Life happens and things can get in the way, but blaming ourselves for not meeting our own expectations isn't particularly helpful. Try writing a list of the things you've tried in the past, and reflect on why they didn't work out. Sometimes this act of reflection can be a great motivator for moving forward.
3. Start small
Nobody is expecting too much of you when you're just starting out. Take little steps at first, like adding your exercise sessions to your work calendar, or telling a friend or partner your plans, so they can check in and ask how you're progressing. There's plenty of research that indicates your chances of achieving your goals increases dramatically when you make your goals known to someone important to you. Consider who might be a good accountability partner as you work towards your goal.
4. Try temptation bundling.
We all have responsibilities that we don't particularly enjoy doing—and for many, exercise falls into this category. Enter temptation bundling, coined by researcher Katie Milkman. It's pretty simple: Think of an activity you really enjoy doing, now think of one you don't enjoy so much (we won't be offended if you put your pelvic floor exercises in here, we know it's tough to get started!). Then, bundle them together!
Maybe you have a favourite podcast or book you'd love to read, but you haven't found the time. The key with femfit® is to avoid anything that might require your phone—you'll need to use the femfit® app while you exercise. Then, try only allowing yourself to do the fun thing, like listening to a podcast episode, while you're doing the less than fun thing (your exercises!).
In Milkman’s study, researchers had the participants select a series of audiobooks they wanted to listen to, then provided them with iPods loaded with the books. The catch was, participants were only permitted to listen to the books while exercising. Participants' attendance at the gym increased significantly, as it had been bundled with the more fun, indulgent thing.
5. Be kind to yourself
And finally, don't forget to show yourself a little compassion. As you work your way up from starting a new routine, and progress to hopefully building lifelong habits, know that it's going to take time. Things might get hard, you might miss a week or two, but don't let any setbacks deter you. It's all about sticking to the routine and making incremental progress, little by little.
And we'll be right here by your side if you need any extra support.