How to Break Bad Habits (And Build Good Ones) Using the 20-Second Rule

woman in the gym checking her watchHere at Movassaghi Plastic Surgery and Ziba Medical Spa, we are always interested in learning about new ideas that support healthy living. When we came across Shawn Achor’s 20-Second Rule on The Chalkboard Mag, we were a little skeptical—but these small increments of time can make a difference, and we want to share details with you. It might be just the ticket for keeping your New Year’s resolutions intact!

Shawn Achor has become well-known thanks to his TED talk and book, The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life, and is often associated with developing gratitude habits, but he has some additional pearls of wisdom to share. With thoughtful self-observation, he noticed that just a little bit of “friction” could tip the balance between his doing something healthy or positive—or choosing a lazier route that wasn’t in tune with his goals.

Building good habits with the 20-second rule

Many of us have heard how it takes three weeks of dedication to truly adopt a good habit, but we don’t know how to get past our daily reluctance. The key to success may be breaking down the steps and eliminating any small points of resistance, even those as little as 20-second hangups. Here are some examples:

  • Want to get in a morning workout or run? Put your running/training shoes by your bedside instead of your slippers. You’ll eliminate the 20 seconds it would take to get them out of the closet as well as give yourself a visual reminder of your intended plan. And, if the first thing you put on is an athletic pair of sneakers, you are cueing your body to get ready for an upcoming workout.
  • Want to eat more healthy foods and vegetables? Print out a healthy recipe when you see it and put it in your grocery bag or purse to prompt you when grocery shopping. You’ve eliminated 20+ seconds of effort—and done something that will help keep your focus on healthy options at the grocery store. If you are more inclined toward digital reminders, put the ingredients on your grocery list and/or digital notetaking app or put the healthy recipe link in your calendar for when you’ll be grocery shopping or cooking.
  • Want to remember to wear and reapply sunscreen? Keep two tubes of sunscreen you love: one in the most convenient place to apply in the morning, whether that’s on your vanity or dressing table and the second tube in a purse or bag you keep with you throughout the day. If you haven’t found a sunscreen you actually like to apply, we have some excellent (and silky-smooth) options.
  • Want to save more money? Set up scheduled auto-transfers to your savings account timed to match the days your paychecks come in. For example, if your goal is to save $1,000 more this year, ~$40/paycheck will do the trick. Can’t manage that? Simply do what you can, as even a small amount of money will add up.

Breaking bad habits with the 20-second rule

Using the 20-second rule to break a bad habit can be both helpful and comical. For Shawn Achor, it meant taking the batteries out of his remote to avoid turning on the TV, but for some days, he still picked up the remote and pressed the buttons a few times before realizing he’d sabotaged his habitual TV-watching plan. Here are more ideas for putting this rule into action:

  • Want to spend less on online shopping? Change your PayPal password to something long and secure that you’ll have to write down and will take some effort to type in when you really need it. (Long passwords are also a good idea for security reasons.) You can additionally disable Apple Pay or other overly convenient payment features on your phone.
  • Want to drink less alcohol? Many people resolve to drink less in the New Year, knowing how alcohol contains empty calories and can speed up visible signs of aging (scientists call this “oxidative stress”). To make drinking less convenient, don’t keep chilled beer or wine in your refrigerator. If a glass of red or other adult beverage is your temptation, start keeping bottles in a very inconvenient place and only get them out on the weekend or special occasions. Complement this with a good-habit builder like having a fave non-alcoholic beverage ready to go—a pitcher of chilled hibiscus tea is a great option or try a mocktail delivery service.

We hope these ideas help make 2020 your best year yet. If looking your best is another goal of yours, we’d love to help. Whether you want to have more beautiful skin or the boost in confidence and motivation a tummy tuck can offer for weight loss patients, our aesthetic medical team has the expertise to help you succeed. Contact us to schedule a personal appointment with the Ziba Medical Spa team or Dr. Movassaghi.

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