By Kitty Felde
Wouldn’t it be nice to simply create everybody else’s New Year’s resolutions instead of trying to follow your own? Can’t I just outsource my desire to lose ten pounds? Why is creating a new habit so darned hard?
I spotted an interview with National Medal of Science winner and MIT Professor Ann Graybiel that helps explain the science of creating habits, both good and bad.
Graybiel says we learn new behaviors in a package, a ritual that includes beginning and ending markers. This is basically so that our lazy brains can stop thinking about the details of an action over and over again (this is why I can’t keep that box of See’s candy around: if I see it, my brain automatically tells me to go have three or four pieces).
But markers can help create good habits as well. Like reading.
If you want your kids to read more in the new year, create the ritual. That means:
- Pick a regular time of day when you and your kids will read together. This can be at breakfast, dinner, before bed, or whatever fits into your schedule
- Set aside a sacred, silent 20 minutes when phones are in another room, the TV is off, all music is put on pause
- Keep the books or magazines you’ll be reading in the same place, ready to pick up where you left off last time
- Set a timer for 20 minutes
- When the timer goes off, take one more minute to tell each other ONE thing from your book or magazine – the best line, the funniest joke, the weirdest bit of fact
- Repeat for two months
Why read together? An article in Forbes cites no less than Warren Buffett who says it’s all about the mentoring and copying the behavior traits of people you admire. If you want them to read, let them see you reading.
Why two months? Scientists actually measured how long it takes to build a habit. The answer? Just over two months. 66 days to be exact.
We all have high hopes for 2022. I’d like to shed an additional ten pounds. Perhaps you’d like to create a new habit of reading with your children.
Kitty Felde is the host and executive producer of the award-winning Book Club for Kids podcast. She’s also the author of State of the Union, the latest Fina Mendoza Mysteries series for children, set on Capitol Hill.