9 New Rules for Making Habits That Stick
1. Moments before slipup Something happens to send you into a tailspin—you fight with your spouse, you receive a snippy email from a friend. You're ready to indulge in exactly the thing you've sworn off, like impulse shopping or junk food. "If these behaviors are associated with reward, your brain is wired to want the feel-good hit it's received in the past."
2. During slipup Enjoy! Whether you're embarking on a little retail therapy or drowning your emotions in cheesecake, don't beat yourself up. "Slow down and appreciate it. Focus on the good feelings, not on the sense that you're failing."
3. A few minutes after slipup How you talk to yourself in this moment often means the difference between moving on from your mistake and making it ten times worse. "Don't let yourself get sucked into screw-it syndrome—the idea that once you overindulge, you've ruined the day, so anything goes. Instead, say to yourself, "Yes, I got off track, but I don't need to make it worse." It's easier to dig out from a 300-calorie or $30 mistake than a 3,000-calorie or $300 one."
4. One day later Keep up the positive self-talk, and you'll be less likely to fall into the same trap again. "Self-compassion means not calling it a slipup but a detour. Say, 'Even if I'm meeting my goals only two-thirds of every day or week, that's two-thirds more than before.' Look at what you've done and frame it as an on-the-whole success."
5. Two weeks later So you've "detoured" not just once but several times? Totally normal. "Accept failure as part of the learning process, but notice how you're failing. Focus on how long it takes you to rally after a mistake. If, for instance, your goal is to stop shopping and you slipped and splurged at the mall, see how quickly you can short-circuit feeling bad and move on. You'll know you're making progress if your recovery time continues to shrink."
— Sarah Z. Wexler