A big part of achieving your goals is all about changing, adding or removing habits, this will make goal achievement more mindless in a sense, as a habit is something we do without thought, we want our journey on goal achievement to be natural. I have created this post which details how to add and change a habit into your routine, these methods and tips will help you with the seamless journey of goal achievement.
Changing our habits seems to be something we all crave, changing our habits to help us achieve goals, make us healthier, lose some weight, stop smoking and so on. Yet why is it so hard to implement these habits at all? Why do we have to wait 60 days for a habit to be implemented into our routines? Well, according to Weinschenk (2019) if we understand the science behind changing our habits then habits are not too hard to form, and certainly shouldn’t take 60 days to implement.
She goes on further to explain the science behind creating habits, by adding a secondary stimulus into the stimulus-response cycle of a pre-existing habit, we change manipulate change. How do you go about this? Create small habits, and making them specific, this is the best way to implement or change habits.
I decided to implement a small, specific habit into my schedule this year. My goal is to have implemented a daily practice of yoga and meditation by December 31st 2021. I knew what I needed to do in order to achieve this goal, I needed to start small, but I seemed to struggle with adding or keeping up with a routine up in previous years. So I decided to scratch the schedule and simply do this:
“Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I will spend 35 minutes at 6.00 am practising 30 minutes on yoga and 5 minutes of meditation”
This is very specific, it has the days I will do my yoga and meditation and the time, it has what exercise I will be doing and how many minutes of those exercises. It is also small. I am not saying I will do these activities every day, I am not making the minutes I practice too harsh to complete. This is a great starting point, and it’s safe to say, I have stuck to this goal to date, I also don’t think twice, I get my mat out at 6.00 and just go for it.
So, now we know how to add a habit, how on earth do we break bad habits? Brewer (2019) suggests understanding our trigger, behaviour and reward pattern can really help with this. For example, you’re feeling sad (trigger) you grab a share bar of chocolate to yourself (behaviour) and you feel satisfied or slightly happier for eating it (reward). This cycle of trigger, behaviour and reward forms our habits. She therefore, suggests we need to map out our habit loops. For example, what habit do you want to break? What triggers that habit in the first place? Let’s say you want to quit smoking, what makes you pick up that cigarette in the first place? It could be one or several factors.
Now draw mindfulness to this scenario, you need to look at this on a deeper level than, oh I was stressed, so I picked up a cigarette or a share bar of chocolate or a beer. How did these actions make you feel, what did you experience within the reward section of these actions, what was the build-up like, do you actually like the feeling of the reward or are you now so conditioned to the reward you barely notice the displeasing senses which you ignore.
Lastly, you need to give yourself a better reward from your trigger and action. So you want to stop eating snacks when you arrive home from work (this one is definitely mine! I am a mega snacker!). You have identified your trigger behind this action and you have also identified the action of eating a snack. Your usual reward for this behaviour is a feeling of satiety and one of happiness. In order to change the action of not snacking when you get home, you need to implement a healthier action and a more enticing reward. So let’s look at this as a whole:
Current Trigger – Action – Reward
Boredom – Snacking – Satiety From Eating Snack
New Trigger – Action – Reward
Boredom – Watching Fav YouTube Channel With A Cup Of Fav Tea – Relaxation & happiness from watching a Youtube Channel you enjoy with your favourite cup of tea
Switching the action of snacking to the action of something you love more and will get more pleasure and enjoyment out of will help to change the habit in the first place.
If we are wanting to add or change or get rid of a bad habit Luskin (2017) suggests this can be done more easily when replaced with new habits as opposed to just trying to add or remove habits.
So we have just learnt a lot today about habits, so I have added some key points below to help you on your journey:
Small & Specific
Set a very small and very specific task to do habitually i.e: every Monday I will not eat meat all-day
Get To Know Your Triggers
This is a vital step if you want to change or remove a habit. Take snacking for instance, how do you get to the stage of snacking? Take my situation for instance. I am trying my hardest to remove snacking from my day. I want to eat only 3 meals a day plus dessert. I currently eat 3 meals a day, plus dessert, plus a morning snack, an afternoon snack and a snack when I get home from work. So as you can see I have quite a few snacks throughout the day.
I won’t work on removing all 3 snack times at once, but rather one at a time. (small and specific) I have chosen to work on removing snacking when I get home from work. I have looked at why I do this particular habit, and to me its pure habit, I racked my brain for months to understand why I snack. I have discovered why this is: Since being a child, right through to adulthood, when I got home from school my mum had prepared me a pre-dinner snack. I am pre-conditioned from childhood to eat a snack the moment I arrive home. So I know instantly this is going to be a hard battle to fight. There are however a few other additions to this highly habitual snack time. The moment I walk in the door I do not even think about it, I just snack, so I am not being mindful and present within the moment. When I don’t have this snack I feel a weird array of emotions, from lost to boredom.
So, now I know why I snack, how to fix it? I will be more present and mindful the moment I get home, be stern and strong on the no snack front, and to replace this habit with something I enjoy equally as much (if there is anything better than eating hehe). This is a working progress and like every journey, it won’t be straightforward., so every time I reach my goal I will make a big deal out of it and when I don’t reach my goal that day, I will improve the next day, and never berate myself.
As we can see from the above example, being mindful is so important. Not being in the present moment allows us to go along with our mindless actions such as snacking or watching the telly when we arrive home. Be mindful and active in the goals we want to achieve.
Use a reward system as a way of enticing you out of one habit and into another one, or using them to add a habit you want to add into your routine. The more you love your reward, the more likely you are to create habits which you do not have to think about doing.
I hope you enjoyed this post all about habits, please let me know if you are thinking about changing or adding a habit into your routine, I would love to hear all about it!
Love me xxx
Brewer, J. (2019) The Science Behind Bad Habits & How To Break Them. Online at https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-craving-mind/201908/the-science-behind-bad-habits-and-how-break-them [Accessed: 01 May 2020]
Jaffe, A. (2019) Why Is It So Hard To Change Bad Habits. Online at https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/all-about-addiction/201903/why-is-it-so-hard-change-bad-habits [Accessed: 01 May 2020]
Luskin, B. (2017) The Habit Replacement Loop. Online at https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-media-psychology-effect/201705/the-habit-replacement-loop [Accessed: 01 May 2020]
Weinschenk, S. (2019) The Science of Habits. Online at https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/brain-wise/201904/the-science-habits [Accessed: 30 April 2020]
Psychology Today. (N.D) Habit Formation. Online at https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/basics/habit-formation [Accessed: 01 May 2020]