The Secret To Starting A New Habit That Sticks, From A Neuroscientist

One of the key principles of mindfulness, harnessing our own awareness can be a powerful tool for training our brain. “We can start with something that we all have, which is awareness,” Brewer explains. With increased awareness, he says we can “see what mental and physical behaviors are actually bringing more joy.”

Practicing awareness is, conveniently, pretty simple: Start with noticing where your attention is at that moment, and then pull it back to the current moment or the current focus. Breathwork can be a powerful tool for increasing awareness, and learning to harness it is also an important part of many forms of meditation.

What we want to bring our awareness to, when using it to adopt new habits, is something Brewer calls the the “bigger better offer” (or the BBO). For example, hitting snooze may seem like the best option right now, but the true “BBO” is getting up with our alarm so we can start our day right—not rushing around, spiking our stress before the day has even begun. No matter what new thing you’re hoping to start, focusing your awareness on the ways that adopting this new habit will improve your life can help bring about that aforementioned enchantment with the practice—which in turn will make sticking to it a lot simpler.

Finding a way to remind yourself of the benefits of a new habit may be as simple as finding a function mantra for this encouraging this shift—plus, evidence suggests regular mantra use may actually reprogram your brain, which can help make adopting that habit an even smoother transition. Not only does Brewer have advice for getting our new healthy habits to stick, but you can also take his advice on breaking bad habits—starting with curiosity.