How To Make Any New Habit Stick—For Good.

Whether you’re attempting a cold plunge or trying to make meditation a part of your daily routine, creating a new habit can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be! Forming new habits can actually be pretty easy—you just need to know which methods to utilize in order to make the process feel easier. Here are a few of my favorite ways of forming a new habit:

Habit stacking. 

Also known as anchoring, this method comes from Stanford professor B.J. Fogg. When you find something that you want to make into a habit, try anchoring, or stacking it, onto a pre-existing habit. 

Let’s say you want to start meditating every morning—try pairing it with something you already do, like brushing your teeth or washing your face—it makes it a lot easier.

Change your environment. 

It may sound simple, but our environment affects our behavior, so look at your environment and eliminate or remove whatever it is that is preventing you from doing what you want to do. When I wanted to start doing micro-workouts a few years ago, I decided to place physical cues in my environment, such as a pull-up bar in one doorway with Stretch Cordz hanging from it, to make sure it was easy for me to do a little workout here and there throughout the day.

Here’s another example from famed writer Victor Hugo. We all know of his book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but did you know what it took for him to actually write the thing? It wasn’t easy…until he changed his environment.

The summer of 1830 was a stressful time for Victor Hugo. It hadn’t started that way, but 12 months earlier, he had promised his publisher that he would write his next book. However, he ended up spending those 12 months hanging out. He socialized, enjoyed gourmet dinners and poetry gatherings, and even did some writing—but only on other projects. Basically, he was majorly procrastinating, and he hadn’t made any progress with the book. Obviously, his publisher was not happy, so he gave Hugo a deadline: he had until February 1831 (less than 6 months!) to deliver the manuscript.

So, Victor Hugo had an idea—if he couldn’t socialize, if he couldn’t leave his home, he would be forced to write. But what would make him become such a hermit? In a stroke of inspiration, he grabbed all his clothes (with the exception of a large shawl) and locked them away in another room.

No clothes, no more distractions. He ended up finishing the book two weeks early. 

This method is also known as a commitment device. It’s a way of forcing yourself into following a plan of action that you do not want to do, but that you know you must do—a way of forcing yourself to take the initiative.

Mindset tricks.

Sometimes, you just have to trick your brain into thinking something different. Change can be overwhelming for many people, and humans are creatures of habit after all. So if you are trying to replace one habit that no longer serves you and want to replace it with a healthy one, you have to be careful about the way you approach it. Don’t load your brain with too daunting of a goal: “Every day I’m gonna work out, cold plunge, and stay off social media….and eat healthy!” This is just setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. 

Instead, you can approach your new habit as a gradual thing, as something temporary or short-lived, so it doesn’t feel like a massive commitment. You can say to yourself “I’m just going to try a cold plunge one time” because the positive effects of the plunge will no doubt have you coming back for more. But by choosing to not make the habit an obligation, then you won’t feel like you have to do it—it’ll just be something you do because you want to. And then you’ll do it again, and again, and again, and before you know it, it’s a habit.

Another way you can use mindset tricks to create a new habit is by using facts to alter your mindset towards a habit. 

If you want to start cold plunges because you struggle with anxiety or focus, or if you want to lose weight, then write out the specific, scientific benefits on different post-it notes or on paper and stick them to your mirror or laptop cover as a reminder of what this new habit will do for you. I read about a method someone used to stop drinking soda—she added up all the sodas she drank for the week, counted how many tablespoons of sugar was in that amount, and then scooped that amount of sugar into a bowl. That visual alone was enough, and she broke the habit immediately. On the flip side, you can write out the benefits that you want from the new habit you want to form to entice you into sticking with the habit, such as “Increased dopamine and endorphins” or “Boosted metabolism and fat loss.” Sometimes you just need the cold hard facts as a reminder to get you going!

Create identity-based habits. 

The way you talk to yourself can have a huge impact on your success with forming new habits. Let’s say you’re trying to stop drinking coffee for whatever reason. Instead of saying “I can’t drink coffee” say “I don’t drink coffee.” Similarly, if you want to start doing cold plunges, be really specific and intentional about the thoughts you have when approaching cold therapy. It’s easy to think “Oh, I only lasted 5/10/20 seconds.” Instead, switch it to make it more congratulatory: “I lasted for a whole 15 seconds!” or “I’m getting better at cold plunges. I make progress every time I take the plunge.” etc. 

You can also substitute certain phrases, such as ‘have to.’ Instead of “I have to do a cold plunge” say “I get to do a cold plunge.” This creates a shift in perspective because you’re appreciating something you have the opportunity to do, instead of thinking of it as an obligation that needs to be fulfilled. 

If you have a method for successfully forming a new habit, tell me about it! Personally, committing to my cold plunge practice has not only been a healthy habit, but it helps me stay focused and committed to other healthy habits. This is because of the many benefits of cold therapy that help boost focus, energy, and mood, but it’s also because once you’ve done a cold plunge, you feel like you can do pretty much anything since nothing else seems as challenging as sitting in a tub of freezing cold water!

Do you want to start cold plunges, but aren’t sure how, or if you can proceed? Check out my course, Take the (Cold) Plunge!, to learn how you can easily make this incredible practice a habitual behavior.


Brad Kearns
Brad Kearns
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