What is the definition of a habit?
The dictionary defines a habit as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.
So why are we discussing habits? They play a strong part in our every day lives and it’s very easy to fall into a habit loop and not even realise you’re doing it. They are incredibly powerful and very hard to break if you are already in a bad habit, and is also difficult to start a new habit.
Habits grow stronger over time and become more automatic, so you may not even think about your habits and how they are affecting you. But they are extremely important and here’s why:
- Good habits allow you to achieve your goals
- They set a foundation for life
- Habits can replace motivation at times
But bad habits can have an increasingly negative affect on your life. Let’s talk a bit more about how they work.
Habits work on a Cue/trigger, routine and reward and because of reward the habit loop is reinforced.
Understanding how they work is the first step to knowing how to change a bad habit into a good habit. So to adapt the normal habit loop, you would still get the usual cue/trigger, but this time we change the routine and still receive the same reward.
So how do we change that routine and break our bad habits? It’s a difficult process to achieve especially if we have been in an automated process of a certain habits for years and years. All habits have a function even the bad ones.
Identifying your triggers – This is the first step in the habit loop. Track a certain bad habit that you’re trying to get rid of or change. Make notes and see if it follows any patterns. More importantly note how you feel during that trigger, what sets it off?
Why do you want to change? – This is the key question, what is driving you to want to change? Only you can answer this question for yourself and when you have figured it out, write it down and display it somewhere you’ll see it. Seeing it regularly will spark that motivation for you to want to change.
Replace the routine with something different – Say for example you want to cut out eating the office snacks at work. A new routine would be to bring your own alternative healthier snack with you to work, giving you another option.
How long does it take to form a new habit?
Research has shown that it can take anywhere between 18-254 days to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for it to become automatic. I know what you’re thinking that is a long time. But once it becomes automatic it becomes apart of your routine. It takes time to develop yourself, it takes time to change. It won’t happen overnight. This is what can scare a lot of people away but you need to have patience in the process and believe in yourself!
Don’t be afraid to fail
We’re all human, set backs will happen. But don’t be disheartened if they do, nobody is perfect. From trying to change a small or a big habit is a challenge and it will take time and there will be difficulties ahead. But once you find a way to overcome them, your mental state will be stronger than before. Develop a plan if you fail, note down what happened for you to break your habit and go backwards, this way you can be prepared next time when you see that same cue you know what not to do.
I always talk about setting small goals, and that’s because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. If you change a small habit and get to your reward it’ll feel a lot better and you’ll be more likely to stick to it rather than setting yourself something impossible to do and never reaching it. For example if you want to start running and you’ve never done it before or its been a long time. Don’t start with running a marathon on your first attempt, chances are you won’t make it, you’ll get disheartened and that’ll be the new habit out the window on day one. Set yourself a smaller target, aim to run for 10-15 minuets a day and slowly build it up. You’ll complete the loop and get the reward, which will be the sense of achievement and repeat the habit until it becomes automatic.
Now I’m not saying don’t aim high, if you want to complete a marathon set yourself that goal, but set that as a long term goal and in between write the small steps you’ll take to get there.
Share your journey
When you share your goals with a close friend or family member, you include them in your journey. If you struggle with being accountable to yourself, be accountable to someone else. It can be easy to let yourself down sometimes but when you involve another person, you’re more likely to stick to what you’ve set. Having someone to talk to is always important.
If you want to invest in a book about habits, I highly recommend ‘The Power of Habit’ By Charles Duhigg. This book is amazing! It goes into a lot more detail of the habit cycle and also researches different ways companies use habit loops to get you to continually buy their products. It really is fascinating.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and found it useful, if you have any questions please get in touch, you can reach me on my contact page and if you haven’t followed the blog already and you enjoy the content please do so. If you would like an e-mail every time I post a new blog you can subscribe below. Thanks for your support and go show that habit who’s boss!
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‘We are repeatedly what we do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’Aristotle