Habit stacking

What is habit stacking? And how can we use it to help implement new behaviors in our everyday life?

What is habit stacking? Habit stacking is a method created by BJ Fogg, a social scientist and professor at Stanford University. Habit stacking is a way to implement new habits by taking advantage of our old ones.

We daily perform several habits or routines that we might not be much aware of. Like taking a shower every morning, brewing a daily cup of coffee or tea, or brushing our teeth.

When we want to build a new habit we can stack it on top of these things. Or put in other words, we can pair a new habit with a particular behavior that we do each day.

E.g. if we want to implement the habit of flossing we can floss every time before brushing our teeth. Or if we want to implement the habit of practising gratitude we can name one thing we are grateful for every time we sit down to dinner.

The formula to trigger a new behavior? In that way, we use an existing behavior to trigger a new one.

E.g. the cue of brushing my teeth will remind me to floss. And over time, the new behavior of flossing will become automatic and thereby turn into a habit.

You can use this formula to try out habit stacking for yourself: “Before/after [current behaviour], I will [new behavior]”.

Before vs. after a current behavior. Now, you might wonder if the new habit that we want to build is best implemented before or after an old one is performed?

A study on implementing the habit of flossing was made by Judah, Gardner and Aunger in 2013.

It showed that the group of people flossing before brushing their teeth had a higher chance of successfully implementing the new habit of flossing at an 8-month follow-up than the ones flossing after brushing their teeth.

This suggests that the habit stacking method may work best when we implement a new habit just before performing an old one.

With these findings in mind, you can therefore optimize the habit stacking formula by saying:

“Before [current behaviour], I will [new behavior]”.

And that’s how habit stacking can help us build a new habit.

Check out other articles I've written:

How to trigger a new habit

How to trigger a new habit

Learn more about setting up triggers in your everyday life to boost the chances of implementing the habit you want to build.

How to break a habit

How to break a habit

Changing our old behaviors can at the same time seem quite simple and super tricky. Here's how to let go of unwanted habits by using mindfulness.

What are habits?

What are habits?

Let's have a look at the actions we perform every day, also called habits. What are they? And why and how do we form habits?

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