Welcome back to a new school year! Whether you are learning virtually from your home country or attending in-person classes, we are glad to have you part of our AHLI family. Our Staff, Directors, Coordinators, and homestay families have been eagerly preparing for you to join us. Of course, this year will look different than previous years; however, with challenges come new opportunities.
As you work to get into new routines- setting the alarm clock to get up for class, wearing a mask when going to school, keeping track of homework assignments, let’s look at ways to build good habits to start your year off strong. A habit is a regular practice or way of doing something that becomes part of life. Almost 40% of our day is made up of habits- things you do every day, like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, doing laundry, going to sleep on the same side of the bed.
Sometimes we hear more often about “bad habits” like biting our nails, leaving dirty clothes on the floor, or eating too much junk food. We should remind ourselves to focus on developing good habits instead of the bad. Psychological research tells us there are three important phases for developing any habit- good or bad. By focusing on the 3 “R’s,” we can create new patterns to start off the school year successfully.
Stage 1: Reminder- First, we encounter a trigger in our daily life that reminds us we are about to start a pattern of behavior- it’s like the “green traffic light” in our brain.
Stage 2: Routine- This is the behavior that gets kick-started in our brain as a result of the trigger; it can be a healthy or negative action.
Stage 3: Reward- The reinforcement from the behavior keeps us repeating the pattern. This repetition results in the formation of habits.
An example of this habit loop that I found myself recently fighting during quarantine started like this…
1) Reminder: At 9 p.m., my daughter and I liked watching Mandalorian on Disney+ together.
2) Routine: While watching the show, we always eat a bowl of cookies and cream ice cream.
3) Reward: It tastes good and is a relaxing way to end the day.
When this repeats day after day, 9 p.m. became a cue for my taste buds craving ice cream before bed! The benefit of sweetness became a desire, and what became a nice treat quickly became an unhealthy habit resulting in several extra kilos of weight gain!
But how do we apply these same principles to develop good habits for going back to school? Start by identifying the habit you want to develop. Find a way to remind yourself to take action- it can be a time of day, or location, or an emotional feeling, or even an event that you want to focus on to cue you to start a new action. Then put the new routine behavior into practice. Lastly, don’t forget to reward yourself for making progress on your new habit to encourage you to keep going! People say it takes consistently doing a new behavior 21 times to develop a habit. You have to keep going, even when it gets tough. But persistence will pay off, and you will quickly see the sweet success of new habits.
Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI - International Education and Homestay