Episode 77: Routine Change Part #4 – HABIT STACKS

You’re listening to The Work Of Becoming podcast! My name is Dr. Karin Nordin. I am your host as well as a behavior change expert and self-proclaimed tornado girl. I spent years of my life struggling to change before I finally got my PhD and learned the psychological tools that I needed to actually make those changes happen. Now, I’m bringing you five-minute sneak peeks of how I’m applying the real science of self-help to my life. Let’s get started!

All right, everybody! Welcome to The Work Of Becoming podcast where, in today’s episode, we are gonna talk about three habit stacks that I’ve integrated within my new routine and why I made those choices. I am not going to spend time today explaining what a habit stack is. I would encourage you to do a quick Google, and you’ll get kind of the basic principles.

If you want to know my perspective on habit stacks, and if you want more in-depth information about how to create them correctly (because, honestly, most people I see do it, they’re doing it wrong), you need to join Change Academy. In this month’s workshop inside of Change Academy, we’re focusing on how to become a frequent exerciser. And so, as part of the workshop, we are going to cover effective habit stack formation. All that is to say, I’m gonna give you three examples today of effective habit stacks that I have integrated within my routine.

So, number one: one of the things that I wanted to start doing with this new stress and resilience routine was meditating, and I am a person who has “tried meditation before” and it “didn’t work for me.” I will go ahead and call myself right out on that because, before this, I had never actually tried meditation for longer than, I would say, maybe two to three weeks. And if I came and told my personal trainer, “Oh, I went to the gym for three weeks, and I didn’t see any muscle gain. Working out doesn’t work for me,” that is obscene. That is ridiculous. We all know that is ridiculous. Yet, I hear some people be like, “Oh, I tried meditation. It didn’t work for me.” I’m like, “Okay, did you try it for two weeks, or did you try it for three-to-six months?”

So, I knew meditation was something that I wanted to integrate into my routine, and previously, I had tried to either meditate at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day before I go to bed. Spoiler alert: those are actually pretty shitty habit-stacking places because, at least for me, my morning routine and my evening routine right now are relatively inconsistent, and the days where I need meditation the most are probably the days where I’m staying up scrolling TikTok instead of doing the bedtime routine that I’ve laid out for myself. And so, if I’m only doing the meditation because it’s stacked with the bedtime routine, but I’m not doing the bedtime routine when I need the meditation, then basically, I’m screwed left, right, upwards, and sideways.

So, instead, I anchored meditation to something that I am right now extremely consistent in which is my six days per week workouts. I also specifically chose to meditate at the gym. So, this might not be something that you can do, but my gym has a yoga room, and so, at the end of my workout every single day, I stop my watch, I go into the room, I put down a yoga mat, I sit cross-legged, and I breathe in and out for five minutes and meditate. That’s all I do. I don’t follow a guided meditation. It’s literally just I breathe in and out, and sometimes I recite a specific mantra.

This works for a number of reasons. Number one: my self-regulation abilities are the highest right after I have done that workout. I’m feeling good. I have the endorphins. I’m really able, in that moment, to control my behavior, and so, it is a behavior that — that habit stack is really effective. Every single time I’ve gone to the gym so far this month, I have successfully meditated. On the one day per week that I don’t go to the gym, I either skip meditation on that day, and that’s fine, or I just try to get it in whenever I can throughout the day. So, that is habit stack number one.

Habit stack number two is that I take my dog for a walk after I get home from WeWork, and this is a really, really important habit stack because I’m thinking about what my new habit needs in order to get done, and the number one thing that I need psychologically in order to take Zoom for a walk is momentum. If I’m laying on the couch underneath a blanket, it’s very hard to convince myself to get up, bundle up, go out in the cold, and take him for a walk. But if I’ve just walked in from work, I already have my shoes on, I’m already moving, the momentum is so much higher.

So basically, I get home from WeWork, I literally don’t even take my shoes off, Zoom comes running to the door, I put on his leash, and we go for a walk right then and there. So, if you’re making a habit stack, I encourage you to think about the role that momentum might play in the effectiveness of that particular stack.

The last thing that I have stacked together (and this is a very common one that you’ll hear) is that I am attempting to drink at least half of a bottle full of water before I have coffee in the morning. This habit stack is interesting because it’s actually sort of a preventative stack. So, one of the things that I have found myself doing is, if I drink coffee in the morning, then I don’t pay attention to my hunger cues as much, and then I end up skipping my first meal of the day because I’m not hungry in the morning, and so, I just delay it.

And so, as a result of that, what I wanted to do was create a habit that would get me hydrated and get me being a little bit more intentional during that morning eating process. So, I made the decision to stack. So, what I do every night is I go and I put a water bottle right next to the coffee pot, and I fill that with water the next morning, and before I drink my coffee, I chug some water.

So, those are my three habit stacks. I hope you enjoyed hearing about them, and we have one more episode left of this series!

PS: if you are on a journey to become a better you, and you want to learn the tools and techniques that will actually help change your life, make sure you check out my Change Academy Membership. Each month, we do a 1.5-hour workshop on a different psychological topic, but we also provide resources like journal prompts, worksheets, and trackers. We host community events and more. If you’re struggling to close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it, this membership was built for you. Go to www.karinn4.sg-host.com/change-academy to learn more!


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Hi, I'm Karin

I’m a funfetti flavor super-fan, a loving dog mom, a PhD expert in mindset and behavior change… and I’m here to help make personal development and transformation a process that’s actually fun.


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