The Great Maternity Leave Projects:  Never Forget to Take Vitamins – Using Charles Duhigg’s Book The Power of Habit

Yes ,this one is straight from the original GML Project list in my lovely little journal, which I have kept to this day.  It was one of the first tasks I undertook and it really has a soft spot in my heart.

In order to accomplish this, I had to buckle down and study the science behind habit and really dig into psychology.  Little did I know that reading this book would change my morning routines forever.

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I was on a plane to London England, and picked up this book at the airport (I believe books choose YOU so I always buy them when I am travelling or randomly in a bookstore.)  I just happened to be thinking about creating a multivitamin “habit” and boom, come across this.  Sometimes the universe is not so subtle.

 

I highly recommend this book and if you do not have the time to read the whole thing, cover to cover, Charles Duhigg has a very comprehensive website.  You can also use the amazing app Blinkist to read all of the latest releases in 15 minutes or less (what I do!)

What really nails Duhigg’s points home, are the examples.  I started a book club section on the Great Maternity Leave Project, and will be following up with a more detailed big post on this book and what I took from it for maternity leave.

(Most of the books I read involve business examples – but they are easily translatable to maternity leave, so that’s what I do for you! )

 

So how did I manage to hack my own brain’s habit loops and make the multi-vitamin as automatic as having a coffee in the morning?

HABIT ANCHORING + HACKING THE HABIT LOOP.

Our brains are very intelligent and will make as many routines as possible a habit, so that can dedicate most of its energy to sorting through information and thinking through tasks like decision making and critical analysis.

So when you get up and do routine things, make a coffee or tea, habit.  When you check your phone.  Habit.

Habits get taken over by an older, deeper part of the brain. Did you know that? Me neither.

That is why bad habits are so hard to break. 

That’s why this book was so fascinating.  I liked the smart science and research in it.

 

But we are talking about forming good habits here.

Pick a habit you already have, a routine which is almost automatic for you – you wind up doing it subconsciously.

For me it’s coffee, for sure.  It’s literally the first thing I do after I put on my housecoat.   It’s automatic. I go to the kitchen, get the grinder going, assemble my aeropress and we’re off to the races (or blogging in my case.)

 

Duhigg Proposes the Habit Loop.

Cue + Routine/Habit + Reward

So, I decided to

1.) Hack the Loop

2.)  Anchor the habit to another good one I have.

 

Here’s how I did it.

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)

 

Remember, the habit I wanted to build was to add multivitamins to my day.

ANCHORING THE HABIT:

I anchored it by having my multis RIGHT BESIDE my aeropress / coffee maker.  The visual cue could just NOT be ignored.  And I know I will NEVER forget to have coffee.  So by anchoring multivitamins to coffee, I know they will never be forgotten.

HACKING THE HABIT LOOP:

I thought about how powerful the coffee habit loop is, that I have above.  So I decided to use the same loop principles.

BEFORE:

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired “I need coffee.”

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)

 
AFTER:

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired “I need coffee.”  Addition:  I did research on how having healthy micro and phytonutrients helps with energy ,and began to reframe them as another form of “coffee” for my body.  I began to use feeling tired as a cue for good nutritional practices.  I also looked at nutrient depletion in post-partum women to strengthen my resolve to rebuild my body’s stores.  

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else.  Addition:  I put my multi-vitamins in a cute little le creuset espresso cup, right beside my coffee cup! Taking them happens before anything else, AND I get a nice glass of water in before hitting the coffee.  

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)   Addition:  Meh.  There’s no intrinsic reward to taking fish oil and glucosamine sulfate and multis…  so this one not so much.  But the other TWO stages were hacked.

 

And that my friends, is how I NEVER forgot to take a multi-vitamin again.

 

While you are on the topic, you might enjoy this read on hacking your morning “energy” and mindset – by by shifting your Instagram or Social Media habits.  

 

The Great Maternity Leave Projects: Take the Lone Wolf Approach to Workouts

Reading time:  4 minutes

Why you should read this:  You will walk away with a newfound appreciation of why you should workout alone + increase your odds of “Getting it done.”

 

So often we hear about overcoming the isolation of maternity leave by doing things with friends, family, acquaintances, etc. but I am strongly in favour of the lone wolf approach for one thing in particular:  Getting your workout groove back on.

Both maternity leaves I have been known for getting back on the workout groove quickly & easily (nutrition is another thing lol) and it is because I always, always take the lone wolf approach to working out.  Then, workouts or activities with friends are cherries on top.

Today I am going to use super, duper simple math to explain it.

Let’s Create your Equation

Take me. I am “1.”   I want to workout.

Write it down.  1.  You are #1.

Obstacle Assessment.  

In my world I am very aware of the obstacles that get in the way.  Here are common things that top me from going out for out for a run or workout.

1.)  I just ate

2.) Lots of things on my to do list that day

3.)  I “feel” tired

4.)  Too logistically complicated (handing off 2x kids their nap schedules etc.)

What are the big ones for you? How many are there that regularly trip you up?

The Equation

We are going to turn this into a fraction.

Here is me. Let’s call me “1.”

My likelihood of working out can be reduced by “4” common obstacles in my world.

So let’s write that as an equation. 1/4

 

Where on Earth are you Going With This Carina?!

Stay with me, seriously, it’s EASY math. Nothing overwhelming.

A lot of us rely on friends to boost / motivate / get us up and moving.

This is why this is a really bad strategy on mat leave:

Your friend also has obstacles that come up in her day.  Let’s take a few.

  1.  Younger baby with erratic nap times / moods
  2. She too is pretty exhausted
  3. How body is feeling (C-Section)
  4. Baby feedings schedule

So put hers into a fraction as well.   1/4.

1 person’s likelihood of working out reduced by 4 obstacles that come up.

 

So… let’s say that you both manage to set up a date and time to workout.  Lingering in the background is your equation, 1/4 and her equation 1/4.  Since both of you are meeting at the same time and place to work out (a feat in itself with babies) there are now eight things that may crop up as an obstacle.

So now, we are looking at the probability of a “friends workout” reduced by eight different obstacles.  Not a good equation for a workout.  You want to do everything in your power to reduce that equation!

As soon as you add people with their own lives + schedules + babies into the picture, your probability of working out dramatically goes down.  It’s too risky a way to get back on the workout train.

You must learn to fall in love with working out on your own, and get your own thing going. Then, when things do workout and your friends join you, it is the absolute cherry on top – an enjoyable boost.  Working out with friends is the best.  So have it as something occasional you look forward to!

 

Use Instagram as a Personal Trainer

Instagram has some AWESOME accounts set up by fit mums (yes, you will have to see 6 packs 1 year post partum lol) that use home objects + home workouts.

I use it all the time for creative ideas.  You can even do a challenge where you have to do whatever comes up on your instagram feed when you have some downtime.  

You do have to get past the super spammy nature of their accounts because they are all hustling e-books and guides… so just ignore the comments and focus on getting creative ideas from the videos for microworkouts.

@Home_squats

@girlyexercises

@Home.Exercises

@busymomgetsfit

I talked before about filtering your social media so that all incoming information is set up to support the goals you have; this is a great way to try out this practice! Set up healthy eating, fitness, motivational quotes, etc. so that all of these motivators are rolling in.

Any searching on google will return you lots of programs, plans, ideas for example Jamie Eason’s Post-Pregnancy 12 week program.  I didn’t buy / download this one but at 6 months post partum I started using a lot of the movements.    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/jamie-eason-post-pregnancy-trainer.html

So there we go, embrace your inner lone wolf (you kinda feel like one anyways on maternity leave lol) and hit those workouts.

Set up yourself up for a probability of success + create your own workout power.

Don’t wait for others, or rely on others to boost you.

Strength and lasting motivation come from the inside.