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HEALTH & WELLNESS

The Habit Revolution:
How habit neuroscience can support you and your family

EXPERT | DR. GINA CLEO

FEBRUARY 14TH, 2024
WORDS BY: MICHELLE COLE
IMAGES: DR. GINA CLEO & HOUSE OF BIMBI

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HEALTH & WELLNESS

The Habit Revolution:
How habit neuroscience can support you & your family

EXPERT | DR. GINA CLEO

FEBRUARY 14TH, 2024
WORDS BY: MICHELLE COLE
IMAGES: DR. GINA CLEO & HOUSE OF BIMBI

We are joined by Dr Gina Cleo, habit expert, founder of The Habit Institute and author of ‘The Habit Revolution’. Dr Gina’s books have been met with rave reviews around the world and it’s easy to see why.

Gina shares the background of her book and gives some strategies and tips to help integrate those healthy habits into your families’ everyday life.

What is The Habit Revolution?

“It is really a culmination of my life’s work. It's. All the research that I've done in habits, my own learned experiences and the experiences of the thousands of people that I've worked with in the habit change space.” Explained Dr Gina. “I really wanted the book to be evidence based but also compassionate and empathic, and I wanted it to be like a like a habit coach in your pocket that’s going to hold your hand and guide you through the process.”

How do we change habits for ourselves and within our families?

“The first step is being clear if you want to create a new habit or to break an old habit,” explains Dr Gina. “The two are very similar and happen simultaneously but the intention of actually adding something in your life or removing a consistent behaviour is the differentiator between those two things.”

Values matter

Knowing where your values sit is also key and will help to ground the why behind the habits you are looking to integrate. For example if going on a family bike ride regularly and spending more time in nature is high on your list for this year, getting really clear about the values which underpin this is helpful. Is this about connection? Is it about health?

Then also as a family, creating the shared values and buy in from everyone about it will also help changes to be longer lasting. Dr Gina explains, “We know that change is hard so being clear as a family on your values and reasons for it can help to overcome the inevitable hurdles and challenges.”

The key is as a family, or as individuals within the family, to set a goal that you genuinely care about.

What would be some really tangible steps they can help us to change habits?

“Change needs to be intrinsically motivated, which means that we have to want it for ourselves. If we’re trying to change the behaviour of or for somebody else, the research shows that it’s likely that it's only going to be short lived.” Dr Gina explains. “So the first thing is actually establishing like mindedness within the family about the goal(s) you would like to achieve and the reasons why it would this be important for each person in the family.” Getting everyone on the same page is the most important starting point.

HOW CAN WE HELP OUR FAMILY WITH THIS?

It could be having a family catch up and sharing ‘I think that we should make this change because it aligns with who we are and what we stand for and the future that we want to have together.’ Get it out in the open and talk through how you are going to do this. ‘The Habit Revolution’ has heaps of practical resources such as quizzes that you can use to engage the family with this and really dig deep into it together. Dr Gina adds “Once everybody's on board with that, the change is so much easier and it’s not a grind. You're not in an uphill battle.”

TALKING TO KIDS ABOUT IT

For anyone who has tried to introduce new habits into their family before, they may remember blocks and resistance. Using the neuroscience underpinning habit changes can help to combat this and make success with habits sticking much easier. And the good news…neuroplasticity shows that the younger we are, the easier change is to make!

“The difference with children is that the results, the positive outcome from the habit change needs to be much more immediate. For example, as an adult say I start doing Pilates... I know that my body will change; physically, for example I know that I'm going to get stronger and I'm going to have better stability. I’m not going to see that change instantly but I know it's coming so I'll push through,” shares Dr Gina. “Whereas with children, they need the reward in situ a bit more. They need that instant gratification at the time.” In her book, Dr Gina explains this further and calls is ‘Temptation Bundling’. For example if going on a treadmill bores you to tears, combining it with something you like doing, watching MAFs for example, can be combined with it – making it reward based learning. So for example with the family, identifying what could be bundled with the new habit to make it really appealing to do it. What feels good immediately and makes them want to do it again?

 “It's also talking it through with them and having them actually really understanding that, you know, we know this can be hard, but what we're going to try and push through.” explains Dr Gina.

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Just show up  –  no matter how small

In the book, Dr Gina shares the raw and vulnerable experience of her separation was and how hard it was during that time to stick to the habits and routines that she knew helped her to stay well. Despite knowing the science and evidence, despite teaching thousands of people all over the world about habits, when life threw a huge life changing curveball at her, including experiencing PTSD, showing up was hard – and near on impossible at times.

"Self compassion is actually the most important thing during times like these,” shared Dr Gina. Sometimes we don’t have capacity to go for that run, to do 10 000 steps or even to eat the nutritious food that we know makes us feel good. “The biggest transformations come from a place of self-compassion rather than self criticism,” shares Dr Gina.

“Capacity changes all the time. There are days where you're not going to sleep. Days that you’re hungrier or the kids are sick and that's going to reduce your capacity to be able to do the things that you want to do, the things you plan to do…and that's OK.” During these times, being mindful of the fact that our goal posts should be dynamic, they shouldn't just be so strict; we are more likely to achieve our goals if we’re flexible and adaptable.

"THE NEURONS THAT FIRE TOGETHER WIRE TOGETHER"

"the more we do something, the stronger these neural connections become and therefore, the stronger the habit gets.”

Micro habits

“A micro habit is essentially a smaller, simpler version of the bigger habit that you're trying to create,” explains Dr Gina. “Say you want to create a habit with your family of going for a bike ride 3 evenings a week. And that might seem really overwhelming at first…there's a lot of moving parts in doing that. A micro habit would be deciding ‘ok, we're only going to do this once a week for the first few weeks’, and then you would build it up twice a week, and then eventually get to three times a week. Or it could be we're going to go three times a week, but only for 5 minutes. It’s really creating almost these accessible pathways in our brain where things don't feel too overwhelming and we're reducing the barriers for change. If we can make the first steps easy or at least easier, we're much more likely to do it and do it consistently.”

CAPABILITY, OPPORTUNITY AND MOTIVATION

To create change that is likely to stick, we need the key ingredients of capability, opportunity and motivation. This includes across the family. Dr Gina explains, “Capabilities really is having the skills and knowledge to do something; opportunities are having the resources around to do it and the motivation of course is having that intrinsic desire to want to do something. You have to have all of these elements.”If families are interested in learning more, they can use the book as a guide. This will actually help map it out for you and your family. Once, together as a family you are aligned in your values, it is then that you can think OK, what's our family capability? what is the opportunity? Then, what's the motivation for the individual or within the family? This would be the best strategy in helping families build healthier habits.

WHAT WOULD YOUR AROUND THE TABLE TIP BE FOR FAMILIES?

“Start small. Starting small sounds so much easier than actually doing it. You have to be really kind to yourself. If you can’t do a workout, just put your shoes on and do a short walk. Or if you can't get yourself to eat a healthy meal, start with putting 1 cherry tomato on your pizza. It doesn't matter what it is, it's really just about starting small and taking the first steps and focusing on consistency, not intensity."

"CONSISTENCY IS THE SECRET SAUCE TO CREATING NEW HABITS.”

You can follow Dr Gina on her Instagram for more tips and ideas Dr. Gina Cleo | Habit Expert


(@drginacleo) | www.drginacleo.com


Free 5 Day Habit Course FREE HABIT TRAINING WITH DR. GINA CLEO (mykajabi.com)

The Habit Revolution: Book | Dr. Gina Cleo (drginacleo.com)


The Habit Change Institute

LEARN MORE

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