In the course of the last weeks, you have been making many changes in your life when it comes to food, exercise, and sleep. You have started new good habits and most likely you have also avoided a few bad ones. You can already feel the benefits of the changes you have made. But good habits are very difficult to stick to and bad habits are hard to kill. Bad habits (like eating sugary simple carbs and other junk food) are never gone. The pathways in your brain related to those habits are still there. Ready to pop back up as soon as you allow it to. Being aware of this will help you to prevent it to happen. How? By understanding how habits work.
HOW HABITS WORK
Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.
You do not crave eating sugar, you crave the dopamine “high”. You do not want to turn on the television, you want to be entertained. Every craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state. The thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the observer are what transform a cue into a craving. The response is the actual habit you carry out, which can take the form of a thought or an action.
Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about anticipating the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward.
Eliminate the cue and your habit will never take off. Reduce the craving and you won’t experience enough motivation to act. Make the behavior difficult and you won’t be able to do it. And if the reward fails to satisfy your desire, then you’ll have no reason to do it again in the future. Without the first three steps, a behavior will not occur. Without all four, a behavior will not be repeated.
Let us transform all these changes we made over the past weeks into new good habits that will stay and are going to made up our new selves. Let us make them, not only what we do, but who we are. How?
HOW TO CREATE A GOOD HABIT
- Make It Obvious
Design your environment. Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible.
Example: If you want to exercise in the morning before taking your shower, leave your weights or jump rope in the bathroom.
- Make It Attractive
Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do. Create a motivation ritual. Do something you enjoy immediately after a difficult habit.
Example: If you want to read more, do it just before watching your favorite show on TV.
- Make It Easy
Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits. Prime the environment. Prepare your environment to make future actions easier.
Example: If you want to eat healthily, plan your meals for the week, make preparations in advance, and have healthy snacks always available.
- Make It Satisfying
Use reinforcement. Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit. When avoiding a bad habit, design a way to see the benefits of doing so. Use a habit tracker. Keep track of your habit streak and “don’t break the chain.” Never miss twice. When you forget to repeat a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately.
Example: Track your progress. Every time you reach your goal give yourself a (healthy or non-food) treat.
Like a garden, we not only need to feed our plants, but we also have to root out the weed. In the same way, we want not only to feed, reinforce and stick to our new good habits, but also need to stop, root out, or break bad ones.
HOW TO BREAK A BAD HABIT
- Make It Invisible
Reduce exposure. Remove the cues of your bad habits from your environment.
Example: You don’t want to eat carbs? Don’t have them in the house.
- Make It Unattractive
Reframe your mindset. Highlight the benefits of avoiding your bad habits.
Example: Create a mental image of yourself fat and weak every time you crave a cake, chips, or other junk food.
- Make It Difficult
Increase friction. Increase the number of steps between you and your bad habits. Use a commitment device. Restrict your future choices to the ones that benefit you.
Example: If you want to watch less TV, disconnect the power cable from the power source, disconnect the TV cable for the receiver, and remove the batteries of the remote controls.
- Make It Unsatisfying
Get an accountability partner. Ask someone to watch your behavior. Create a habit contract. Make the costs of your bad habits public and painful.
Example: Establish your goals for the week (eat no chips, drink no coke, sleep on time, exercise every day in the morning) and give your plan a friend. He will check with you if you kept with the plan providing proof (pictures, video, family interview).
Now you have all the information you need to take your transformation to the next level. Continue with the routines established thorough out the last three weeks and keep following the recommendations until you have reached all your goals. Once you have accomplished your objectives (become fat-adapted, stronger, more tolerant to distress, positive and balanced person) you can improve upon the program adjusting and modifying to align your new good habits to your new goals and objectives.
Keep up with your new daily routine and use what you learn about habits to make following your routine easier. Please, leave a comment if you found this information helpful.
Thanks for reading.
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not substitute medical advice.