5 Minute Habits - A Goal System

An easy way to integrate habits into your life
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Created by Jess_advocates

Published on Feb 28, 2024
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Every year when I decide to come up with New Year's resolutions it's the same. I write down my goals and plan to dedicate time to them in the coming year.

Then February comes along and I either realise I haven't been integrating these goals into my life, or I forget about them completely.

It's the same story each time around; every year, I structure vision boards, complex calendars and systems. 

At first, I thought the issue was that there were too many goals, since some years I planned lists of 'do this and do that' every day.

So I created goals which were seemingly 'achievable' and not dependent on external sources.

The next year would come round, and I'd review the previous year with shame and frustration that I couldn't grow how I expected to in that year.

The problem is we're looking in the wrong direction

The problem wasn't my willpower. 

I watched videos which told me it was, that the issue was will vs motivation, and that we should rely on taking action rather than relying on motivation.

The problem is that New Year's resolutions are difficult to achieve because our brains don't work in that way. 

The brain will always aim for the easy route because of its wiring. So the problem is not that the brain is weak-minded but instead that we're looking in the wrong direction when it comes to goals.

The truth is the brain tries to go the path of the least resistance. So when we say 'I'll begin doing this habit' and we plan to, my mind stays in the normality and ease of comfort instead.

There is also the element of safety: what the brain is comfortable with, it feels safe with.

So how do we set these resolutions/goals in a way which works with the brain:

Firstly I think it's important to note that everyone is different. This method works for me, but It might not work for you.

It's about adapting the method so that it's easy, because changes which aren't easy will be repelled. 

The Habit Loop describes that habits have a cyclical nature, there is a cue (trigger) for example 'memory'.

Then we take the action and do the routine (habit)

It ends with a reward or reinforcement.

An example:

Smoking -

We are triggered to smoke because of addiction/stress/memory.

We smoke

Ends with the reinforcement of feeling good from smoking.

There is also the element of ease - as stated before, the brain will take on habits which are easy. 

So when you're creating a new habit you have to ensure that you have a trigger, action, reward and that it is easy.

5 minute habits paired with the habit loop

So we know that if we want to make a new habit it has to be 

  • Easy 
  • Have a trigger/cue
  • Have an action
  • Have a reward/reinforcement 

So one way we can do this which was mentioned by Dr Chatterjee an author and GP is that we can create 5 min habits.

Dr Chatterjee also uses the 3 M's idea which he created for his patients so that we can do habits which have been shown to create change in someone's life.


These are:

  • Movement - 5 minute movement of your choice.
  • Mindfulness - 5 minute practice of mindfulness of your choice.
  • Mindset - 5 minute practice of Mindset which helps your mindset.

The fact these habits only take 5 minutes each means that they are easy, but paired with the habit loop they can become foundational.


Habit pairing/stacking is another concept which describes leveraging the trigger of a habit you already have established - for example making a hot drink in the morning. 


You can then associate the kettle boiling with the habit you want to create. So if the habit is movement, whilst the kettle boils, you could do a quick exercise or stretch.

This habit stack will then have the reinforcement/reward of drinking the hot drink. 

You can do this habit stacking with literally anything:

  • Getting changed - if you have a mirror nearby, do a quick 5 minute mindset mirror work affirmations. This is an idea from the author Louise Hay to create self-compassion. But you could adapt this to include saying 3 things you are grateful for (gratitude is evidenced as well to improve well-being) or things you love about yourself. Be creative with this. The reward could be a good feeling.


  • Before scrolling on TikTok - Do a 5 minute journaling session. You could use prompts, or just do a free writing exercise. This could also be done on a phone on the notes app, or laptop writing programme. The reward would then be the response from going on TikTok.


  • When making a drink first thing in the morning - do a 5-minute mindfulness practice of putting your hands under the water and noticing your environment, how are you feeling? Ground into the sensation and then you can have a drink of water - which would be the satisfying reward.

Why 5 minutes? How can that create change?

Habits should be done every day, and 5 minute habits are easier than say 30 minute habits, so the brain can get over the resistance of doing them, and they are achievable.

It can be surprising how as little as 5 minutes can shift your mood, mindset, and health for the better.

It's worth giving it a try because it's doing something. And also having the 5 minute practices is fun and an easy way to keep adding once you've got the hang of those habits.

After you master those initial habits, you could add a couple more different habits which interest you and you think would benefit you.


Some habits which I think are great:

  • Journaling
  • Mirror work
  • Gratitude
  • Strength exercise
  • Meditation
  • Breathing techniques such as evidenced shorter breath in, longer breath out.
  • Learning self-help tools
  • Reading
  • Engaging the brain in intellectual activity
  • Watching a short motivational video
  • Yoga/stretching/pilates
  • EFT -tapping 
  • Hugging self
  • Getting out in nature
  • Going for walk
  • Grounding 


But these are just some ideas, you could do this with anything. Good luck! 

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