The Power of Habit Stacking

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balancing beach pebbles or stones with the sea in the background

It can be frustrating when you read about all of the cool wellness habits you should be doing.

If you start adding up the time-cost, five minutes here, ten minutes there really start to add up.

It can feel impractical to fit all of these things into your life.

Meditation, journaling, visualization, vision and mission statements, exercise, stretching, hydration, preparing fresh food….

How do you make it all work?

  • First, you start with one habit at a time. One solidified habit outweighs five failed habits every time.
  • Second, you stack the habits together. The first habit becomes the trigger; the stacked habits give you leverage for your time commitment.

The cool part about habit stacking is that when you pair a new activity with a habit that is already ingrained, the second activity is much more likely to be maintained than if it were integrated at a separate part of the day.

The first habit becomes a natural trigger to the secondary habits.

Plus, the combination of keystone activities multiplies the positive outcomes for your health, relationships, career, and overall life.

If there’s days that you only complete 2 of 3 activities, you’re still doing more than you would have otherwise. Habit stacking is a self-perpetuating and virtuous habit.

What are Some Ways that I Stack Habits?

healthy athlete man jogging at morning on empty  roat in the cityA few of my already ingrained habits include: exercise, getting sunlight, journaling, and meditation. Here are some of the things that I tend to “stack”:

  • When I meditate during the day, I make sure that I’m also getting sunlight. If it’s cloudy, you still get exposure to healthy rays.
  • Instead of running on a treadmill, I find a trail or a hike where I’m going to be breathing in the forest or the smells of the desert - while breathing fresh air, getting exposed to healthy microbes, and re-grounding with the earth.
  • When I’m sitting in a sauna, I’m also reading a book or stretching.
  • When I’m working out, I’m listening to a podcast or audiobook.
  • When I take work breaks, I’m foam rolling, stretching, meditating, or doing quick sets of push-ups, body-weight squats, jumping jacks, or burpees.
  • When I sleep, I'm using a sleep mask, chilipad, and decibal-reducing ear plugs to support deep and sounds sleep.

Habit Stacking Applied to Supplements:

While supplements overlap in the general area they address, they do differ in the mechanisms they support.

When you stack supplements with different mechanisms around the same functional goal - you highly leverage your support.

Inflammation in the body is created by a few major mechanisms beyond direct physical or chemical injury.

The first major arm of inflammation is through toxin absorption in the blood as a result of a leaky gut.

Bacteria have a natural life cycle - when certain bacteria die, components of their cell membrane known as endotoxins - are toxic to us and create inflammation when absorbed into the bloodstream. The result is called metabolic endotoxemia - and it's a risk factor to all chronic disease.

A number of supplements can help protect the lining in the first place, bind up the toxins with Immunoglobulins such as those found in MegaIgG2000, or the natural sponge effect of Activated Charcoal, or help digest the toxins with high-protease enzyme formulas like Enzyme Defense Pro, or help the liver deal with the toxins with products such as Milk Thistle.

Mucosal support
formulas such as MegaMucosa help protect the lining integrity in the first place.

The next major arm of inflammation is from an altered omega-6 to omega-3 fat balance.

Omega-6 fats are inflammatory and omega-3 fats are protective. Supplementation with omega-3's can help reduce the inflammation potential of the body.

Omega-3 fatty acids also derive into anti-inflammatory compounds known as pre-resolving mediators, pro-resolving mediators, and specialized pro-resolving mediators which help to tell when it's okay for the body's inflammatory process to stop.

We use MegaOmega by Microbiome Labs especially when gut inflammation is involved as it contains a full spectrum of omega-3 fats, plus added PRMs to help curb an overzealous inflammatory response. It supports full body omega-3 balance but was designed in ratios specific to support inflammation in the gut.

For a general omega-3 formula, we like the Pure Omega series by Integrative Therapeutics, and Cod Liver Oil for natural Vitamin A and Vitamin D support too.

When you understand the mechanisms of dysfunction, you can start to stack a number of anti-inflammatory compounds that work by different mechanisms that complement each other for more rounded and personalized support.

If you're trying to address leaky gut, but your omega-3 and omega-6 ratios are off, it's going to delay healing.

You also want to make sure you're addressing triggers and causes in the first place.

You can take a bunch of mucosal support, yet still be eating gluten - which causes leaky gut in everyone that consumes it as we do not naturally produce the enzyme necessary to break it downindependent of immune reactions which are also quite common.

If you're immune system is off balance and you're also deficient in Vitamin D - you're going to have a tough time healing because vitamin D is an anti-inflammatory and immune-balancing hormone.

I see the best results are when a client focuses on upstream influences like diet quality, stress, exercise, sleep, sun exposure, healthy relationships and more while I also help coax the system back to balance with more tactical strategies like specific behavior, nutrition, vitamin, mineral, or herb recommendations.

  • Better Stack, Better Results

When I see clients that have not been getting results with a previous practitioner, often they were very close to seeing results but were missing some core pieces to complete their "stack" of new behaviors, habits, or supplements.

I commonly use an example where I ask my client, what factors are necessary for a plant to grow?

It takes sunlight, water, and healthy soil. If you give the plant only two of the three it will still wilt and even die, but it doesn't mean the other factors were useless or harmful  - it just means you were missing the complete picture of the ingredients it takes for the plant to express health.

Keystone Habit Stack - Sunlight and Red Light/Infared Therapy:
infared red light therapy
Sunlight is essential for optimal wellness.

It supports tissue and cell healing, and key hormones such as serotonin, melatonin, and Vitamin D. Not everyone can get outside in key hours, nor is the climate ideal for sun exposure year round.

I supplement my sun exposure with Platinum LED red light/Infrared Therapy Lights.

Red and infrared light support cellular healing, hair growth, sleep quality, hormone production, brain health, skin health, and more. You can support Vitamin D3, serotonin, and melatonin with supplementation as well.

When it comes to light therapy, the main companies like Joov and Platinum LED are modular so you can start small and grow as you wish and to your budget.

Start with targeted areas and move up from there. I chose Platinum LED because they were in the industry the longest, and they do not use celebrity endorsements (or use them much less).

Which means they’re not looking for you to shore up their costs to pay for celebrity endorsement fees.

Platinum LED also pays store affiliates less, so you as a consumer see better prices. This is also why you see more internet personalities promoting Joov - because they make more by recommending that brand than by recommending the same, yet more affordable technology in Platinum LED. 

I also chose Platinum LED because they’re the longest established in the space, and as such, you get the same, if not better light technology, modular “build-as-you-grow” design option, while being about 30% more affordable than Joovv. 

Save 5% with promo code “dralex” on any Platinum therapy device combination. 

I do recommend combining “Biomax” red light and infrared technologies so you can “stack” the different benefits of both red and infrared light wavelengths.

I have a unit that I keep in my office with two Biomax 900 panels displayed vertically.

You can target specific regions with smaller, single panels, but the best thing to do is to get exposure to both red and infrared wavelengths for 10 minutes a day to the front and back of your target area.

The best dose is when standing or exposing the problem area some 6 inches away. When standing further away you can get more body coverage from a smaller light panel, yet you may need a longer treatment time to make up for the loss in light intensity.

A further distance from the unit can be fine for skin cosmetic goals (improved appearance and glow of skin), but for joint, tissue, and cellular healing, up close is best.

For a bonus stack, use in conjunction with Whole Body Collagen by Designs for Health. And for sun damage, add Truniagen PRO as nicotinamide riboside (vitamin B3) boosts recovery from UV skin damage.

This special form of B3 directly promotes production of NAD+.

NAD+ is arguably as important as ATP, and it helps “grease the wheels” of 100’s of metabolic reactions in the body - especially after overeating, over-drinking, sun exposure, or any other reason that you may have had an increased metabolic or inflammatory stress on the body.

NAD+ has been referred to as the “central regulator of metabolism” and is used in one fashion or another by most anti-aging PhD personalities. It also supports sirtuin activity - one of the major anti-aging pathways.

Honorable mentions to resveratrol, and berberine - Resveratrol for its sirtuin and antioxidant activities, and Berberine for its AMPK signaling support which is central to proper blood sugar/insulin control.

So how do I habit stack with red/infrared light?

When facing the light, you’re wearing blackened goggles, so I’m doing something auditory like meditation or listening to an audiobook or self-development podcast.

I also might measure my heart rate variability (using  a Polar Heart Rate Monitor, and the free Elite HRV app) or focus on a deep breathing or alternate nostril breathing exercise with or without the mediation.

If I’m away from home and my beloved gadgets, I have a back-up meditation or breathing routine that I default to - often Box breathing, alternate nostril breathing, or 4, 7, 8 breathing typically with Headspace app or Calm app.

I like Headspace, my wife likes Calm, yet having both as a couple lets us change it up from time to time. When working, I listen to Brain.fm with headphones to help me focus, and they have relaxing and sleeping tracks that also support healthy brain rhythms when it's time to chill out and relax.

I might be making sure any devices I need for the afternoon are charging up too and my eyes are given a break from electronic blue light.

As the light shines on me, I’m knocking off a lot of high-leverage goals.

I’m writing my gratitude journal, planning strategy, outlining article content, reflecting on personal development goals, reading vision, goal, and mission statements, or updating spreadsheets or checking in with my team while it’s shining on my back.

I could call family and friends. I could use a self-massage device on a sore area.

If I’m out getting sun in my backyard, I might stretch, foam-roll, or do an easy yoga workout to leverage the time. I may have a book and notebook in hand while I lounge as well.

On the days I get sunlight, sunlight is a natural source of red and infrared light (along with vitamin D, serotonin, and melatonin support), so when I do my red light therapy that day, I might only shine the light on the back of my body and cut the time in half that day.

If I did anything in a pool that day where both sides of my body were getting equal sun exposure, I might skip light therapy and do some focused mobility/posture work or sneak in a high intensity 7-15 minute bodyweight or home dumbbells and exercise band activities.

And, it gives me plenty of options at nighttime when I want to turn off screens and ready myself for bed.

Make Habit Stacking a Core Lifelong Strategy

In the end, I’m always looking for ways to stack healthy habits together over the same time commitment.

A healthy person has healthy habits - and to make it all work in the context of life - stacking them together is the key! If you see a successful 

Student studying in park. Joyful happy young girl student sitting reading book outside on university campus or park. Education concept. Positive face expression

person you’re looking at the results of successful habits strung together over a longer period of time.

Having grown up in a single parent, working class, and food insecure home - I took it on myself to study what made others “different” from me - and it came back to their habits, and their resourcefulness to responding to less than ideal circumstances.

A core strategy built into that framework is habit stacking - because this is where one primes the brain with gratitude journaling, and maintains the structure of the body with stretching, yoga, and strength training, while also promoting mental balance with meditation and breathing exercises - just to name a few core habits - often done in combination or succession with a good habit stack.

Beyond the Stack: Remember to Invite Silence and Stillness

Silence and stillness can be a fruitful activity. It can be important to fit time away from screens and away from the noise.

We wash our bodies and brush our teeth daily - but we don’t wash this beautiful supercomputer of the mind nearly enough.

If you have hectic days, sometimes that’s the most healing thing you can give yourself - purchase a pair of noise-canceling headphones or cheap earplugs and wash your mind by off-loading your sensory systems for a few minutes at least once a day.

It only takes five minutes applied consistently over an eight-week period to see significant and long-lasting results for mental performance, endurance, and clarity.

What’s cool about habit stacking is that instead of remembering three separate things, you only have to remember and schedule ONE thing, and just happens to involve three things at the same time.

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By Alex Rinehart | August 28th, 2020| |

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