Whether you want to get rid of bad ones or form better ones, habits can be tricky. A part of our everyday lives, habits are often rooted deeply in our behaviour. If you’re after tips and techniques on how to form good habits, read on for advice on the psychology of habits with guidance on the best way to form new ones.
What is the science behind habits?
In his best-selling book “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg advises that there are three parts to every habit: a cue, a routine and a reward. Cues trigger our brains to performing the habit, routines are the habits themselves and the reward is the reason why you carry out this behaviour in the first place.
For example, if you snack on junk food in front of the TV every night. The cue is sitting in front of the TV, the habit is snacking and the reward is the taste of the sugary or salty food. So, sitting down watching TV is likely to trigger your brain to crave junk food. Over time, this behaviour becomes automatic so each time you watch TV, you eat junk food without even thinking.
But is it possible to build new habits and break the old, bad ones? Charles Duhigg thinks so: “To understand your own habits, you need to identify the components of your loops. Once you have diagnosed the habit loop of a particular behaviour, you can look for ways to supplant old vices with new routines.”
Is it possible to form good habits?
In most cases, starting a good habit takes effort before it becomes automatic. Maxwell Maltz, author of the popular book, Psycho-Cybernetics, suggested that it takes 21 days for a new habit to take hold. A cosmetic surgeon, he noticed that his patients often took 21 days to get used to their new appearances after surgery. So, just three weeks of focusing on one new habit could mean you take your first steps to changing your lifestyle and achieving your long-term goals like losing weight or improving your fitness.
How do you form good habits?
Based on research by the University College London, the following steps could be the most effective way to form a new habit:
- Once you’ve decided on a long-term goal, identify a habit that helps you towards your goal. Choose something that fits into your life – something you can do each day even if you don’t feel like it.
- Stick to simple habits. For instance, if you want to get fitter set yourself the task of walking 10 minutes each day. If your goal is to lose weight or eat healthier food, aim to fill half your plate with vegetables.
- Decide a time and place to carry out your new behaviour. Try to pick something and somewhere you already do every day. For example, drink a glass of water before you have your breakfast every morning.
- Whenever you’re in the same situation, make yourself do the action. Over time this will become easier and eventually you will do it automatically.
- Reward yourself and celebrate your achievements. When you’re building a new habit, it’s important to have some fun and give yourself a pat on the back as you work towards your goal. This will help you stick to your new routine in the long-run.
Although it takes some time and effort, it’s not that difficult to form a new habit. Starting a fresh, healthy behaviour gets easier. Try it yourself and within a few weeks, your new habit could be more like second nature.
Beth, one of our store colleagues made a healthy change in just 21 days. Read Beth’s success story.
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