By Alex Burnett, Crosswalk.com
Establishing even the smallest of daily habits is greatly beneficial to our mental health and overall well-being, contributing to feelings of productivity. Author Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit, says that our brain actually clings to forming habits because they create a neurological craving where certain behaviors are rewarded when “pleasure” chemicals are released.
Habits are important because they can increase our productivity, increase efficiency, and lead us to creating a healthy and balanced lifestyle. In reality, habits shape our everyday actions. We establish routines that are repeated day in and day out, and within these cyclical activities are small habits. Not all of our commitments or activities are good, or necessarily improve our overall wellbeing, and this is why it is essential to have self-awareness and prioritize positive habits. Once put in place, these healthy habits, over time, can lead to dramatic personal transformation.
How to Get Started
When developing good habits, there are a few key elements to consider: start small, be intentional, and celebrate each victory. Set realistic expectations by choosing a task where consistency can be established. What matters is starting something that can be done over and over to create habitual routines and trigger the reward center in the brain. At first, it takes strict discipline to commit to a goal, hobby, or task that will be implemented into your typical routine and may seem to be taking up a lot of time. However, once the action forms into a habit, you won’t even have to think about it anymore because it will become second nature. For example, you probably brush your teeth in the morning and at night, maybe more often. This was once a new habit, but after you learned how to incorporate it into your schedule, it now takes up no time; you may not even have to remind yourself to do it, and though it's necessary, it is a good habit that improves your health.
Celebrating each victory will help stimulate the feel-good response signaled by the brain before a habit is formed, and in turn, motivate you to keep going so that the habit will actually become ingrained. Some people are more disciplined than others, but don’t fret if you sometimes lack self-motivation or commitment, because the power of a habit is chemically worked into our brains. Finding encouragement and motivation each step of the way cultivates a positive perspective and leads to believing in oneself to persevere until that task turns into a habit.
Now, there is no definitive schedule or special equation on how long it takes a habit to come to fruition. It depends on what you are doing and on the dedication and consistency put into it. There is a saying that it takes 21 or 30 days to create a habit; however, this is a myth that has been disproven. Be patient and offer yourself grace as you focus on doing that one thing each day. It is important to realize that everyone is different, so don’t be discouraged by someone else starting the same efforts and attaining their goal more quickly than you. Refrain from comparison because it will only counteract your productivity and steer you away from celebrating the small victories.
Where to Start
Wondering where to start or what habit would improve overall well-being? There is nothing more productive and eternally worthwhile than spending time in Scripture every day. If you do not read the Bible daily, it is a wonderful habit to consider implementing. When you engage in Scripture daily, your entire life becomes postured around it. We should be filling our hearts and minds with knowledge rich in God’s truth that informs us on how to live in His ways, pouring out to others through everything we do. By reading the Bible we become equipped spiritually and are able to center our lives around Scripture because we grow and learn by spending time reflecting on its goodness.
One suggestion for an easy plan to start comes from Catherine Clark, Head of Publishing at Alpha. “We are so often encouraged to read the Bible, but how do we really find time to fit this into our busy lives on a daily basis and make it a habit? It can be a huge challenge that overwhelms us,” she said. “That is why we have developed the Bible in One Year app which is a handy tool in your pocket that makes it as easy as possible to access manageable portions of the Bible alongside commentary that applies the readings to life and helps us grow closer to Jesus.”
Setting a specific time and place to read the Bible and sticking to it will aid in making time in God’s word a habit. Be aware of distractions and be quick to take action and remove them. Common interruptions that are easy to avoid are phones and noise. Silencing your cell phone or even leaving it in another place out of sight can be helpful, as well as sitting in a quiet room where people or conversations will not divert your attention.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
When you begin this routine, start by praying and asking God to give you a hunger for His Word and to prepare your heart for what He will reveal to you. Like all habits, consistency is key, and having a plan can truly make a difference. When something is predictable, and you are able to allocate the sufficient time and energy to it. Being intentional also helps in guarding against bad habits because when you are mindfully considering the rituals that are incorporated into a daily routine, it is easier to recognize what is not productive or healthy. Refrain from becoming discouraged if you skip a few days or struggle with inconsistency, as it does take time and patience. Forgive yourself for mistakes that you make and continue in the path of diligence, never giving up because once you work the Word of God into your daily life, everything will change.
Photo Credit: ©Getty/West-End61
Alex Burnett is Marketing Manager for Alpha International, whose pioneers Nicky and Pippa Gumbel developed The Bible in One Year daily reading plan to provide an accessible and organized resource to build the habit of engaging in Scripture daily. What started out as a daily email to members of the church Nicky leads in London, the Bible in One Year is now available to download as an app, with three editions; Classic, Express and Youth; and audio and text versions available in five languages.