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  • Writer's pictureMarie

How to 10x the Likelihood of Actually Making New HabitsThe Role of the OT in Habits

Updated: May 23, 2020

Here’s the first paragraph from THIS journal article about habits and health professional’s role:

“Patients trust health professionals as a source of advice on ‘lifestyle’(that is, behavior) change, and brief opportunistic advice can be effective. However, many health professionals shy away from giving advice on modifying behavior because they find traditional behavior change strategies time-consuming to explain and difficult for the patient to implement.Furthermore, even when patients successfully initiate the recommended changes, the gains are often transientbecause few of the traditional behavior change strategies have built-in mechanisms for maintenance.”

Tool for Habits

In a bit, I’m going to touch base on the highlighted areas. But for now, this is journal offers this “tool” for making a new healthy habit.

  1. Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health.

  2. Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis.

  3. Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week.

  4. Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.

  5. It will get easier with time, and within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without even having to think about it.

  6. Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!”


This rarely works for me. (The article is packed with other good stuff though!)

Here’s what DOES work for me.

  1. I think about what habits I am really, really good at. Things I do automatically without even thinking about. I am awesome at brushing my teeth MINIMALLY 2 times per day. My oral hygiene doesn’t skip a beat. I am amazing at eating three meals per day. I brush my hair EVERY single morning. Even great at using the toilet. These are things I do with little thought, effort, and almost never miss. They are my true core habits.

  2. I link a NEW habit to an existing habit. I personally, wanted to build a better booty, so I linked it with using the toilet. Every time I use the toilet, I do 25 air squats. 25 air squats can be done in any bathroom privately and it’s enough to get my heart rate up and by the end of the day, I’m sore like a good workout.

I’m terrible at taking my vitamins. Now I don’t brush my teeth without first taking my vitamins.

For me, linking a new habit to an existing routine tends to take the thinking out of the whole plan. I never think to myself, “I need to make sure I brush my teeth sometime today” I just end up doing it. When I put vitamins right after brushing my teeth, I just end up doing it.

Maintenance Tips:

I’m an all or nothing type of girl. I’d recommend starting with 5 air squats. Do those air squats before every bathroom trip until its second nature. Add 5 more. Slow and steady wins the race.

Therapeutic Use of Self?

I’m going to TRY to be very careful with how I word this paragraph, but in the event that I am not….be open minded and bare with me. Therapy is ALWAYS about the patient.

Every good admit is a new relationship to be had.

After building rapport, I ask my patients to teach ME something.

I have found that this 1) Helps us grow closer 2) Takes away the feeling of helplessness, they are contributing 3) Connect the patient with their past and the things they love to do 4) Throws in a little competition/goals for us both to look forward to.

What this has looked like for me in the past:

I had a man that was once in the service that could do 100 push-ups in a row when he was my age. Nothing was more boring to him than our sit to stand trials, so I agreed to match his sit to stands with pushups. Voila, 14 weeks of 3x per week push-ups for me after every single session. He was counting on me.

I caution you to be righteous. Remember our practice act. Remember that this is NOT billable. And also remember that habits don’t have to be grueling. They CAN be fun, they can help you build healthy relationships with others and they can be a learning experience together. Also, therapy is about the patient, not about you. So this shouldn’t be used with everyone.

So, take home message, don’t shy away from talking about habits. Nothing is funnier than having your patient tell you that they kept their promise of doing 5 ankle pumps while they sat their fanny on the toilet. And you letting them know you did your air squats in the McDonalds bathroom will brighten their day a bit also.


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