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The Dangers of Disrupting Healthy Habits

We all rely on habits and systems to get through our daily lives. The average person is said to make about 35,000 decisions every single day, that would easily become VERY overwhelming if we didn’t have habits to put us into auto pilot. In fact, Gerald Zaltman, a Harvard Business School professor, suggests that 95% of our decisions occur in the subconscious mind.

That is why most of us from an early age have ingrained healthy habits that keep our lives in good order. For example, brushing your teeth every day is a simple and effective way to take care of yourself. A missed day here and there won’t automatically qualify for a new filling, but consistently neglecting teeth will certainly lead to negative outcomes for your health, self-confidence and eventually your dentist bill.

So, if you’ve missed brushing your teeth one night you’re unlikely to throw caution to the wind and abandon canine care altogether. In reality, you’re much more likely to do the opposite with a longer brush, as an apology to make up for your sins. Instead, you will launch into a morning assault, flossing and brushing until squeaky clean.

But why are other healthy habits so different when we fall off the horse?

The quitting smoker has one fag and sees it as an excuse for a 20 year relapse. One missed gym session turns into 5 as the habit fades into a distant memory.

Journaling, which is essentially a toothbrush for your mind can also fall into this category if we aren’t careful. Often people use a guided journal to help with all things productivity, gratitude and habit tracking. Sometimes holidays serve as a break from journaling as there is no productivity to be had, just pure relaxation (like me below on holiday in Vienna).

There’s no problem with this, apart from when you come back to reality and the journaling habit that once served you so well has fallen by the wayside.

This blog post is inspired by two conversations with friends. The first came after I enquired how she was getting on with her Evolve Journal, her reply intrigued me. She openly shared how consistent she'd been the first two months and had felt a lot of benefits. But, after returning from holiday, never picked it back up. Only a couple days later a different mate, who I know for a fact had been religiously gyming for months, explained how it had taken him 2 months to get back into the gym after a holiday. 

We wouldn’t have this approach with our teeth, and for good reason. So why do we do it with other healthy habits?

Not doing things we know we should, can eventually end up weighing heavy on us. Building up a sort of ambient anxiety that grows the longer we put off what we know deep down we should be doing. This might be a culmination of little lies to ourselves or just the sheer fact we feel we are moving further away from our idealised self.

Despite the feeling of knowing you should do it, there’s a kind of psychological difficulty there to pick things back up.

A disruption in routine can be all it takes to add a little friction to a habit that means it doesn’t get done. Don’t feel bad about this, it is just the way humans’ hard wiring and our habits work.

The running shoes get put away and out of mind. The journal makes its way from the top of the bedside table and into the drawer.

The good news though, you have agency over your decisions and knowledge like this can be the extra tricks and motivations to judo flip your outdated hardwiring and consciously adapt.

If you recognise you have a healthy habit, that serves you well, it makes sense to continue with it.

So if you’ve fallen off a healthy habit that used to serve you well recently and you’d like to form it again here’s some guidance below.

1. Habit stack.

Simply find a habit you already have and attach the habit to it. Supplements with your first glass of water during the day. Stretching whilst brushing your teeth. You get the drift.

2. Remove friction to encourage and add friction to discourage.

Want to watch less TV in the evenings so you have more time to focus on other things? Create friction by removing the remote’s batteries. Unplug the TV from the wall. You’ll be amazed at how easily this additional friction disrupts the muscle memory of switching on the TV. It turns the action from automated to considered. Of course, then the inverse is true: build your new habits, make them as easy as possible, and on the days when you are really time-poor, make sure you complete a minimum viable effort. The equivalent of 10 press-ups or 1 page read.

3. Add it to your calendar

If it's not in your calendar, it's not going to happen. Assign time in your calendar to carry out your healthy habit and stick to it. Treat it like a meeting, turn up and do what's expected. If you have a holiday coming up, assign time in your calendar for when you get back. If your habit is fitness related, book a class you enjoy or arrange to go on a run with a friend you wouldn't want to let down - accountability is key here. 

4. Reward yourself

Gamifying your life and adding incentives is a great way to gain extra motivation to carry out your healthy habits. Just make sure the rewards aren’t bad habits themselves. If you reward yourself with something naughty, it will often end in a net negative.


These actionable tips rely on your reflections and having the presence of mind to notice when you have slipped out of good habits. Regularly journaling and writing down your most important healthy daily habits is a very effective way to turn yourself into your own accountability partner. So next time you have a holiday and you want to slip back into your healthy routines, make a conscious effort to keep journaling and you will experience the powerful domino effect it will have.

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