How to Use Tiny Habits to Put Your Best Fork Forward

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It’s a new month, and it’s a great time for a fresh start. I know that my eating habits have suffered over the past few months as I have been crazed with the busyness of grad school. But today, on the first day of National Nutrition Month, I vow to put my best fork forward and tackle some of my challenges with tiny habits.

What do I mean by tiny habits?

Tiny habits are new, simple behaviors that take less than 30 seconds to perform. You attach them to existing, routine behaviors so that you have a better chance of remembering to do them. They are small so that they require no real effort to perform. After you perform one existing habit, you perform one new behavior, with the intention that it will become automatic over time. As a reward to reinforce the desired behavior, throw a mini celebration for yourself: do a happy dance, hug yourself or tell yourself, “I’m amazing!” More details on tiny habits can be found in a TEDx talk by creator and Stanford psychologist, BJ Fogg.

What are some real-life examples of tiny habits?

  • After grabbing a grocery cart (existing habit), I will wheel it to the produce aisle (desired new behavior).
  • After turning on my oven, I will toss some frozen veggies onto a baking sheet.
  • After making my bed, I will scoop some rolled oats into a bowl.
  • After making my morning coffee, I will peel a banana.
  • After logging onto my computer at work, I will take a sip of water.
  • After brushing my teeth at night, I will name one thing that I was grateful for today.

Why do tiny habits work?

Tiny habits are easy to perform and repeat, and they do not rely on our often unreliable motivation. They help you to gain confidence in developing automatic behaviors that contribute to your ultimate health goal. Your tiny habits will get easier the more you practice them, and as this happens, you can modify them to increase the challenge and get closer to your goal. It is important to keep tiny habits simple; this helps you to sustain changes over time and overcome obstacles that threaten your progress.

These new health behaviors may not seem like much, but being successful with small changes is a major step in the right direction. Once you master your tiny habit and it truly becomes part of your daily routine, you will become more confident in your ability to make changes, and starting new behaviors will gradually become less intimidating. And, to be honest, who doesn’t have time to try a 30 second change?

Since starting grad school, I have been using dinnertime to procrastinate when I should be starting on my schoolwork in the evening. One plate turns into two, and sometimes three, and before I know it, my stomach is so full that makes it almost impossible to focus. For the next month, I will be putting my best fork forward. After finishing my dinner, I will immediately put my plate into the dishwasher. I’ll reward myself with a Superman power pose to tell myself that I am strong and capable of making positive changes!

I challenge you to consider adopting a tiny habit too. Maybe it involves what, when, where, or how you eat, or perhaps it involves another health behavior altogether. Put Your Best Fork Forward for National Nutrition Month, and let’s start making small changes toward a healthier lifestyle together.

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