I wanted to start out by saying something: unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you probably already know what habit stacking is.
But then I realized that I totally was that rock dwelling person not so long ago, and that kind of makes me sound like a judgmental asshole. Self awareness at its finest right there.
Now, let’s rewind a little.
What is Habit Stacking
James Clear wrote a book called Atomic Habits a few years back, and it’s getting a lot of hype lately. I honestly don’t know if he’s the person who coined the term habit stacking, or not. And, I also didn’t read the book. Just a little disclaimer there.
I did however hear about it on a ton of podcasts and blogs, and I realized that I’ve been habit stacking my life for decades before I even knew what it was.
So, what is it?
Habit stacking is a tool used to build new habits, by attaching them to existing habits.
According to Clear the formula for habit stacking is:
After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
How To Use Habit Stacking
Ok, so first things first, let’s just clarify that you’ll obviously want to attach your desired new habit to an existing healthy habit. Or, at the very least, to a habit that you do consistently and regularly no matter what.
The reason for this is that consistency is key here. In order to actually get in the habit of anything, you need to ingrain it into your day, your week, your life in a way that starts to become almost effortless. If you attach your desired new habit onto something you only do once in a while, you won’t cultivate the same level of consistency needed for that desired new habit to stick.
So, what are the habits that are seamlessly a part of your every day? Well, in my experience, these are usually related to the most basic hygiene that we learn as children. As well as any other extra wellnessy flares you’ve created over the years. Some of my favorite habits to build on are:
I like these ones, because these are all clear non-negotiables to me every single day.
By the way, if you’re raising your eyebrows at the rinsing nose one, then you clearly haven’t read my blog about it. I am the biggest neti pot fanatic of all time, and think it’s one of the greatest wellness hacks of all time. Just saying.
Example Of Habit Stacking
Remember how I told you I learned what habit stacking was, and then realized I’ve been doing it myself without even realizing it? Yeah, those are a few of the examples I’ll share with you here.
Meditation and Light Mask
As most of you know, I’ve been on a skin journey, which is why I invested in an LED light mask.
The one I got was pretty pricey, so I definitely wanted to get the most out of it. I was committed to using it every day for a month in order to really notice any difference in my skin. This is usually my rule of thumb for skincare, try it for at least 30 days straight to really know.
I know some masks say you only need it for 3 minutes, but the one I got I can stay on for awhile. It was recommended to do about 15 minutes a day.
However, the one I bought is super big, because it covers your neck too (this is one of the reasons I got it). Which means I can’t really just wear it around the house while I’m doing stuff, and get those 15 minutes in- because it’s so big, the eye holes fall lower than my eyes. Also, it’s not great for your eyes to stare at the light either.
I struggled to just lie still for 15 minutes a day to make this light mask work. But at the same time, I didn’t want to give up so easily.
Then it clicked, I can just put it on during the cool down and meditation portion of my yoga practice. I’m already lying down with eyes closed, and tend to meditate for about 15 to 20 minutes a day- so this was perfect!
It’s been 8 months since I started this practice, and I truly can’t get enough of it now. I actually prefer my meditation with the mask on, because it just helps me to drop deeper into myself.
And, funnily enough, the light mask also helped to ingrain meditation more deeply into my day-to-day as well. Remember how I said don’t attach it to a habit you don’t do regularly? Well, I did that! Before this 8 month period, I’d say I meditated an average of 3-4 times a week. So still regular, but not daily.
Now, I meditate every day, and I genuinely believe the mask is partially to thank for that.
Sunscreen in Morning Routine
In case you didn’t notice the last example, it didn’t really follow Clear’s formula of before/after, as it was really DURING. This example will be a little more by the book.
Part of my skincare journey meant getting real psycho about my sunscreen. I was, admittedly, so bad at putting on sunscreen daily. Did it really matter? I thought.
The answer is yes, it absolutely did.
Needless to say, I needed to start that sunscreen habit, like, yesterday. So I needed to make sure it was in my morning routine without fail.
I decided to put it in before I brushed my teeth. I chose teeth brushing, because this is a guarantee. I will 100% brush my teeth every single morning. And, it’s one of the first things I do in my morning routine, which meant I could get that SPF on early before it was too bright.
Not a morning goes by that I don’t apply sunscreen. Even when it’s cloudy, or rainy, or whatever. Every morning, me and my EltaMD have a date. It’s about 30 seconds of a yummy facial massage that just makes me feel a little more alive in the morning, plus protects my face.
As a little bonus, I also added another habit into the sunscreen rub down by silently repeating affirmations to myself during this time. I just wanted to incorporate a little more intentional self-loving talk into my day, and thought this would be the perfect place to slot it in.
Now, I associate SPF with my morning routine, and I associate sunscreen with loving language.
Pretty cool, huh?
Where To Get Started With Habit Stacking
Now it’s your turn! And getting started with habit stacking is honestly super simple. It’s just two steps, really.
First, I’d just like for you to think about a new habit that you want (or need) to incorporate into your day.
Second, think of a habit that you already do that would be a good pair for that before/after (or during, in my case) method from Clear.
Next (okay, I lied I guess it’s 3 steps), stay committed. Really see it through for at least a month. Consistency is key in habits, and the easiest way to get over the consistency hump is by habit stacking!
I can’t wait to hear about how it goes.
Have fun with it!