Habit Stacking for Health Made Simple

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I think we’ve all had good intentions where we want to start a new habit or reach a new goal, but we struggle to follow through with it. (I’ve found in the past that sometimes I’m too vague, and that doesn’t set me up for success either.) Anyone else ever made a New Year’s resolution that didn’t last long?

Today I want to get practical and look at how we, as moms, can stack habits for our health to take good care of ourselves while also taking care of our families. Even though I focus on health, you can use these concepts for personal development or at work.

Please see this list as inspiration and don’t try to implement these all at once. I don’t want this to become an overwhelming goal for you. I don’t even do all of these pieces every single day, and it’s not my aim to stack all of these habits every time. We are all wired differently so I want to share what others have shared with me and what works for them. To start, pick one or two habits that strike you or that best fit your goals and adapt your daily routine from there.

What Is Habit Stacking?

Ever since I had James Clear on my podcast, I have been intrigued about optimizing my habits. James is the author of Atomic Habits, and I learned so much from him about habit stacking.

The idea of habit stacking is to build new habits on top of the actions you regularly do. Instead of starting a new habit from scratch, pair it with a current habit. Consider the things you already do most days and how you can add to them.

Each of the titles below is what experts call a “trigger.” These are the tasks or existing habits you’re already doing that you can stack another habit on top of. They will serve as the cue to start your new habit.

One of my biggest takeaways from the podcast interview with James is to leave whatever materials I need from my new habit out so it reminds me to do it. For example, having my floss next to my toothbrush reminds me to floss immediately after I’m done brushing my teeth.

You also need to be specific about what your trigger is. Don’t vaguely say, “I’d like to walk during lunch break.” Instead, stack your habit as “I will go for a walk when my lunch break starts.” See the difference?

Another vague example is saying, “I want to stretch every day (or stretch more).” Instead, be sure to pair it with another activity. You could say, “I will stretch my neck while I wait for everyone to get buckled in the car.”

Here’s some inspiration to help you start habit stacking.

Morning Habits

You should know that I don’t typically do any one habit daily, but I do some combination of these just about every morning after I wake up for my morning routine.

Grounding

I’ve covered the health benefits of getting outside barefoot and absorbing the electrical charges from the earth. Grounding is one of my favorite things to do early in the morning, often before everyone wakes up. It’s a great way to start my day off in nature.

When it’s cold outside, I like to drink my coffee while I’m getting in my grounding time. During pregnancy, I drank this red raspberry tea recipe while sitting outside barefoot. It’s simple to stack a healthy drink with my grounding habit.

Sauna

I love using my sauna and all the health benefits of sweating. If I’m crunched for time, I will dry brush when I first get in (before I get all sweaty.) Getting into the sauna is my cue to dry brush. Sometimes, I will take time to practice gratitude while I’m inside the sauna. That’s my trigger for me to think through all the things I am grateful for.

Castor Oil Packs

Using a castor oil pack on your tummy or liver with a heating pack is easy to do at home. (Listen to this podcast to learn more.)

Some things you can stack during your castor oil pack habit are:

If you’re really hardcore, stack any of these habits with a coffee enema instead! As you fill up and hold it, you have about 15-20 minutes to just lay on the floor or in the tub. Just keep baby wipes nearby so you can clean your hands before you touch anything. I’ve even had friends tell me they will do their coffee enema inside the sauna! I haven’t tried that yet since I have a barrel sauna outside.

Shower Time

While I’m waiting for the water to get hot, I often dry brush my skin. Dry brushing is a great way to flush your lymphatic system. This is my favorite brush set.

A friend told me she struggles to remember to water her plants, so while waiting for hot water, she puts an old pitcher under the tub faucet and lets it fill up. This way, she gives her plants some love and doesn’t forget about them! Her trigger to remember is keeping that pitcher by the shower.

After I get out of the shower, I will use my wave vibration to help my lymphatic system. If I have time, I’ll stand on it while blow-drying my hair. I love how the low-level vibrations help stimulate my lymphatic muscles and stabilizer muscles.

Daily Habits

Consider what your daily habits already are where you can stack any health habits. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to add to your daily routine.

Driving

My friend’s dad boasted that he flosses his teeth while sitting in rush hour every weekday. I wouldn’t recommend doing anything unsafe like stretching while driving, though.

Instead of mindlessly listening to the radio, consider how you can optimize your listening habits:

  • Listen to a devotional
  • Listen to a podcast or audiobook
  • Call a friend or family member to catch up (one thing the Blue Zones, groups of people who live longer than the rest of the world, have in common is regular social connections)

Waiting

We’ve all had to wait for someone or for something to start. Even though my first instinct is the bad habit of grabbing my phone, I’ve tried to let these moments be a trigger for one of these good habits:

  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Think of three things I’m thankful for
  • Get a few steps in while waiting
  • Stretch while pumping gas
  • Keep a car vacuum in the car and clean it up during sports practice
  • Keep a few cards and a pen in the car console to write notes to friends and family

You might be surprised at what you have enough time for.

Eating

So many cultures have beautiful practices they share before eating together. Science now confirms that many of these practices aid digestion by helping us get into the parasympathetic mode. Consider adopting some of their traditions for your family:

  • When everyone sits down at the table, take a few deep breaths
  • Say a prayer aloud
  • Ask everyone to say what they are thankful for

If you’re trying to optimize your health with supplements, I find it’s easiest to remember to take them with food if I leave them out on the table or in a basket nearby. Seeing the supplements is my cue to take them.

Evening Habits

After dinner, I’ve been experimenting with these different habits to keep my family healthy. They’re all small wins.

Kitchen Closing Routine

Now that my kids are old enough to help out with dishes, I do other prep work in the kitchen that helps us stay on track with eating healthy. I’ve been able to have some great conversations with whoever is doing the dishes too.

I’ll frequently check my favorite meal planning service, Real Plans, for what’s on the menu tomorrow and see how I can get ahead. I try to:

On occasion, if I know tomorrow is a full day, I’ll even assemble a casserole and stick it in the fridge so it’s ready to go.

I don’t do it every day, but sometimes I will pull out all my dry goods for the next day and whatever tools I’ll need. For example, if I’m making my coconut flour biscuits, I know the first thing I need to do is to throw them in the oven after getting home. In my prep area, I set out the following:

  • Food processor
  • Mixing bowl
  • Baking sheet
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Dry ingredients
  • Butter

This way, I don’t have to rush around when I get home. This also really helps lower my stress!

Consider what appliances you can pull out and fill with non-perishable ingredients the night before (even adding the water will save you time the next day).

  • Instant Pot
  • Slow cooker
  • Immersion blender
  • Stand mixer
  • Pots and pans

After you finish dinner, pack breakfast and lunch for the next day so that you aren’t tempted to eat out the next day.

When I close the kitchen, that’s my cue to put on my blue-blocking glasses for the night.

Drinking Water

If one of your goals is to drink more water, you’ll want to set out a glass of water or bottles as cues to help you remember to drink it. I like to fill a water glass and put a lemon on the counter with a little cutting board and knife, so it’s easy to do the following morning.

If I’m really feeling fancy (actually I’m just trying to get my kids to drink more water), I will infuse water overnight with our favorite flavors.

If you don’t have a whole house filter yet, check out these options for pitchers, countertop filters, and under-sink options. When we had a countertop one, I was notorious for forgetting to keep it filled. If I had known about habit stacking back then, I might have tried a routine like:

  • Dinner
  • Clean up
  • Fill instant kettle with water for coffee in the morning
  • Top off water filters so we have fresh water tomorrow

Bath Time

Just like with a shower, I try to stack my habits (but not too many so it’s not stressful because that’s not worth it).

While I’m in the tub, I’ve experimented with these health habits:

Bedtime

I’ve set a bedtime alarm on my phone for a few years now to remind myself to get in bed by 9:30 or 10:00 p.m.

If I don’t take an Epsom salt bath, I keep magnesium oil in my room, so I remember to rub it on.

We frequently do legs up the wall before bed with our kids to help them wind down. An easy habit to stack would be to ask them what they’re thankful for to practice gratitude. If your kids are younger, you could ask this before naptime.

Weekly Habits

Not everything you want to do to improve your health has to be done daily. There are still massive benefits from doing some things once a week. I like to rotate what I include in my morning routine and workouts.

Consider what you might want to add in once a week for better habits. Think about what your weekends look like or your husband’s day off and how you can let that be a trigger for what you want to add in.

For example, if you want to walk more but struggle to find the time, maybe you’ll decide that when you get to your kids’ sporting event, you’ll do one lap around the stadium or track before you go in.

Consider how you can build your community by inviting people over for the following weekend for a meal or just to hang out. I’m more and more convinced that Europeans have better health outcomes than us because they prioritize spending time with others.

Tips for Success

Overall, I remind myself that each of these tiny changes will make a big difference over time. I don’t beat myself up if I miss one time. I just identify a more effective cue for the new behavior I want to do.

As always, don’t be afraid to drop a habit if it no longer serves you. Sometimes you try something and it’s not for you, and that’s okay. For example, if you’ve been trying to lose weight and you step on the scale every morning, it can be discouraging. Consider cutting back to weighing yourself once a week to save time and get more realistic results.

On the other hand, some days I need a little silence at the end of the day (because rest is productive.) One trigger for me is that, when my husband gets home from work and unpacked, I take 10 minutes of silence (even better if it’s outside) to clear my head and decompress before dinner so I can continue to be present with my family.

Lastly, consider finding an accountability partner if you’re trying to establish a new habit. Send this article to a friend and tell her the one new habit you want to focus on and that you’re going to tell her whether or not you’ve accomplished it to motivate you to stay on track.

If you want to learn more, pick up the book Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Break Bad Habits and Build Good Habits by James Clear, listen to my podcast with him, or check out his site.

Another book I’ve heard good things about is Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less by S.J. Scott.

Have you tried habit stacking? What’s the one new habit you will try stacking?

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