Create Healthy Habits with Pairing


We all have good intentions and most of us probably want to wake up each morning feeling like we have some illusion of control over our lives, like we have the power of choice about how we spend our time and energy.  If you’re reading this blog, you probably have an interest in lessening stress, creating a calmer classroom, and/or finding balance between school and home.

If we wake up each morning and  find ourselves wishing for some relief from our day to day schedule, the best place I have found to start looking is at our habits: the ones that have crept into our lives slowly over time (like my occasional desert “reward” becoming a nightly desert “demand”) and those habits we have worked hard to implement (like the five years it has taken me to slowly build up the habit muscle to consistently get up a few minutes earlier to do some mindfulness practice each morning).

Interestingly we may see habits as difficult to start and keep, but what seems to be true is that “occasional habits” are more difficult to keep because your brain needs to expend the energy to decide if today is the day to do that occasional habit.  If you commit to doing something every day, after a time (studies show about 21 days) your brain no longer needs to make a choice about if you need to do this thing, as Nike says, you “just do it.”

Now the trick is to figure out how to create habits that last even 21 days so that you have more of a fighting chance to get that habit to stick, eventually becoming as automatic as brushing your teeth.  One way to get a wished for habit to become automatic is through pairing. Pairing simply means coupling something you want to do or enjoy with the habit you’re trying to implement.  For example, say you love binge watching Friends or some other show on Netflix, pair that with beginning a treadmill or stationary bike workout routine.  If you really want to start walking more, pair that with listening to your favorite podcast.  Because you want to do those things you love, they will motivate you to enlist the habit.  This sounds simple enough and it is, however, the trick is to make sure you only watch Friends (or something else on Netflix) when you are on the treadmill and you only listen to the podcast when walking.  Otherwise the pair won’t be as effective because your brain won’t connect those two actions and the habit might not ever stick.

In Teaching Well’s 20 Minutes to a Working Wellness Routine, the four habits that are suggested to create a wellness routine are: quiet time, intention setting, reflection and work transitioning.  Here are some potential pairs that may help make some of these habits become automatic:

  • Pair your five minutes of morning quiet time with using a favorite robe or a warm, cozy, fuzzy blanket (that you only use when you sit for your morning quiet time).
  • Pair your daily intention setting with a cup of coffee or other favorite breakfast beverage.
  • Your daily reflection could be paired with soothing music or using a favorite pen or notebook.
  • Make sure your work transition activity is paired-meaning whatever activity you decide to do, pair it with something even more enjoyable (i.e. exercise with Netflix, walk with friends or drive home with your favorite music blasting).

Your challenge this week is to find something you want to make routine in your life and find something to pair it with.  It’s possible that you will have to exchange a habit (like sleeping in) with the habit of getting up a few minutes early if you really want to create the habit of Quiet Time.  But by finding something to pair it with, you set yourself up for a better likelihood of success!

So I wish you the best of luck on your pairing adventure. If you want some practice with pairing to create a self-care routine, check out Teaching Well’s Free Guide “4 Simple Stress Solutions the Reduce Teacher Burnout and Increase Self-Care in Only Five Minutes a Day”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *