DAYP 1: Build Good Habits / Add Acute Stress

This week’s content includes how to build good habits and how adding acute stress can improve your life.

#1: How to build good habits to accomplish your goals

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.”

– James Clear

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, sat down with Dr Peter Attia to discuss how to build habits. Below is a framework he recommends to help develop good habits.

Steps:

  • Log your current habits. Identify what your current habits are and how you spend your time.
  • Discover your habit cues. Figure out the cues which trigger for the habits you want to change. Specifically the who, what, where, when and why for your habits.
  • Set up your environment for success. Structure your environment to make it easy to do the new habit.
  • Start with small changes. Scale down your new habit and make it easy. Example, if your goal is to read 30 books in a year, scale it down to read 1 page a day. The hardest part is getting started. Just show up.
  • Improve and scale over time. A habit must be established before you can improve it. Once you are consistent, start to optimize and increase the intensity.
  • Make it pleasurable. Reward yourself when you succeed with your habits. Just make sure the reward aligns with your goals and identity. If the goal is going to the gym and reward yourself with a massage versus a gallon of ice cream.

Notes:

  • 4 basic laws to every habit:
    • Cue (something that you notice) – A plate of cookies
    • Craving (prediction or meaning you assign to the cue) – You see the plate of cookies and think to yourself how tasty or enjoyable it will be. Often leads to the dopamine spike. The thing that motivates you to take action.
    • Response – You walk over to the cookies and take a bite
    • Reward – After you eat the cookie you confirm the tastiness
  • If a behavior is not rewarding it’s not likely to become a habit. You need a positive signal associated with the behavior in order for behavior to “stick”
  • Rather than thinking of breaking bad habits, think about displacing those habits with good habits. Example, if you want to watch less Netflix per day you could accomplish that by working out for an hour a day when you normally would be watching Netflix.
  • Break bad habits into smaller instances and work on addressing those rather than tackling the entire habit at once. For example, if you want to smoke less each day, instead of quitting cold turkey, work on each smoking session as its own habit. If you smoke on your commute to work replace that with coffee (a new habit).
  • Think of your environment as gravity for your habits. You can resist bad habits for a while, but if your environment has cues for those habits, ultimately you’ll get pulled back. Example, during the Vietnam War many soldiers were addicted to heroin while serving in Vietnam. However, when they came back to the USA 90% of them stopped using.
  • Set up your environment so the “good” habit is the easy one to make. Stack the odds in your favor by manipulating your environment. Healthy food on the counter or hiding the TV in a cabinet.
  • Never miss twice. If you are building a habit and you happen to miss one time performing that habit it’s OK. Just make sure you don’t miss 2 times in a row (otherwise this will become a habit). Say you been on your diet for 8 days and on your 9th day you binge ate a pizza. On the next day you need to go back on your diet.
  • Consider using the A-B-Z framework:
    • A: Where are you right now
    • B: What are your next steps
    • Z: Where you ultimately want to end up
    • Start every habit with “Z” and what you want to optimize for. Then jump back to “A” and identify where you are currently (be truthful) and the reality of the situation. Knowing you want to head to “Z” what’s the next step “B”? Don’t worry about all the steps (C-Y), just be sure that the next step is in the direction you want to go
  • Be clear on where you want to go, but flexible on how you get there.
  • You can reward yourself with both short term and long term strategies:
    • Short term. Give yourself a reward when you perform your habit, but make sure your reward aligns with the long term identity you are trying to build. For example, if rewarding yourself with ice cream for going to the gym is creating 2 different types of identity. Instead, for going to the gym for a week you could reward yourself with a bubble bath.
    • Long term. Change how you identify yourself through your new habit. If your identity has become “I’m a person who doesn’t miss workouts” then in the middle of doing squats your actions have reinforced this identity making the habit stronger. The behavior now has become the reward.

References, sources and more:


#2: Add acute stress to sleep better, live healthier and improve your grit

The real key is to accept stress as a reality, accept that stress is helpful in the short term, but learn to adopt practices that allow you to clamp down on stress when you feel like it’s not serving you or it’s been going on for too long.

Andrew Huberman

Chronic stress can be deadly. However, did you know you can improve your stress resilience by adding acute stressors in your life? Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman spoke with The Model Health Show about various ways to add stress and pain into your life so you can be stronger, healthier, and happier.

Steps:

  • Get daily sunlight exposure. Expose yourself to sunlight early in the morning within 30 minutes of when you wake. 5-10 minutes is all it takes on a sunny day and 20-30  minutes on a cloudy day. 
  • Avoid light in the evening. Avoid lights after 10pm and do not look at your phone after that time.
  • Use breathing to your advantage. Take a deep breath in, then another small breath in and then exhale. This double inhale breath method can bring your calmness back to baseline levels during stressful situations.
  • Do weekly Zone 2 cardio training. Do 150-180 minutes of Zone 2 (heart rate between 60-75% of your maximum heart rate) cardio per week. 
  • Add acute stress to your life. Change your relationship to stress by adding physical or mental stressors to your life such as the Wim Hof breathing method or taking cold showers. Create challenges that you can overcome in your daily life. For example, if you drink coffee every morning before your workout try not doing this once in a while and reward yourself with coffee after the workout.

Notes:

  • The data is very clear that weekly Zone 2 cardio training improves longevity and health
  • Zone 2 heart rate is somewhere between 60-75% of your maximum heart rate
  • If there was 1 recommendation Dr. Huberman would recommend to reduce stress, it would be to get daily sunlight exposure due to the improvement in sleep
  • When we overcome self-inflicted stressors and challenges, we release dopamine and change the relationship we have with stress in non self-inflicted situations.
  • These techniques and methods work because of neuroplasticity, our brain’s ability to form new synaptic connections as an adaptation to learning and experiences.

References, sources and more:

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