Changing habits isn't the most fun thing in the world. It's hard and can be frustrating, but once you change your habits, you realise that it was worth it!
Habits are formed from our subconscious mind as a way of preserving energy and taking the easiest route.
Unfortunately, that also means that breaking them can be just as hard as forming them in the first place! Habits aren't always bad.
There are a lot of good ones as well. The problem is when we have too many bad habits, and they get in the way of reaching our goals or when some habits are unhealthy and dangerous.
In this article, we'll talk about changing habits and 14 things that can help you change into beneficial habits for good.
How do you go about changing a habit?
Habit formation is a process. There are many different steps, and it can take weeks for some habits to complete the formation process, but things will be much easier once you do! The habit formation process occurs in two stages:
- Cue-response Association (CRA) - The initial stage of cue exposure to your new behaviour. It is where you associate the cue with the response. The goal here is to focus on your new behaviour rather than the old one you are replacing.
- Cue-Routine-Reward Association (CRRA) - A repeatable daily route with short, pleasant activities. After repeated CRA's, this stage becomes commonplace and eventually, it becomes an automatic routine. Your mind no longer has to think about it; it just automatically does it.
- It is no surprise that breaking a habit is usually harder than forming one, but once you break the old habit and form a new one, you will be glad that you did!
A habit cycle is the process of an initial cue prompting a routine, followed by a reward; this activates specific neural pathways. Eventually, the reward becomes associated with the cues, and both parts of this loop become automatic through repeated practice. To change your habits, you will need to:
Identify your cue:
Cues can be as simple or complex as you want. It can be a certain place. It could be a feeling of stress from work etc. You will need to have your cue ready so that you can recognise when it happens.
Identify the routine:
So now you've found your cue, figure out the routine that follows the cue. This could be going to McDonald's every day in the afternoon, and it could be procrastinating homework etc. Once you know what your particular habit is, focus on it!
Plan your new response:
After you have figured out both your cue and routine, figure out what you will do instead of the routine you have identified. Be specific and write it down!
After you have done this, make sure that you reward yourself for your hard work! This gives your brain a positive feeling towards breaking the habit, which will help to keep you motivated.
It would help if you continued working on this until you change your habit. It will take time, but with hard work and perseverance, you can do it!
The best way to tackle a habit cycle is to make the change an intentional process. Acknowledge when a particular habit happens and replace it with something that you want to do instead. Don't overload yourself all at once.
Take time to work on this. The more effort you make in trying to change your habits, the easier it will be. When breaking a habit, we often try to stop doing our routine completely. Unfortunately, this is very hard and usually leads to failure.
When attempting habit formation or habit break, create a new routine to replace your old one, and reward yourself every time you follow through! Eventually, the old habit will fade away.
What are some other ways to change habits? Here's 13:
14 habits that can help you change your old ones:
1. Focus on one habit at a time
Breaking multiple bad habits at once is more difficult than changing just one at a time. This will help you maintain your motivation and keep you from getting overwhelmed.
2. Figure out your WHY
Why do I want to change this habit? Having a clear vision for your goal will motivate you to persevere (whether it's quitting smoking or losing weight).
What was going on during your childhood or past that connects with this habit? How do you feel when this happens? Were you in a particular environment, and what were you doing physically before the habit took over?
3. Identify the craving
What's going on when you want to make this habit? How are you feeling? What do you think about the habit that makes it easy to fall into the same routine again?
Are there certain foods or drinks that make the cravings worse or better? Are there certain people who make it easier to keep the habit going?
4. Avoid triggers
If you are trying to break a bad habit, avoid the trigger! If you already know the trigger, change how frequently or often that thing happens.
For example, if you can't stop eating 'unhealthy' food after dinner, try to have healthier snacks on hand and schedule your workout for before dinner.
If you are trying to start a good habit like eating breakfast every morning, wake up earlier than usual and cook or prepare things the night before, so it takes less time in the morning.
5. Prevent easy access
What makes it easier to have the habit? Make it harder or impossible to do this. For example, If you are trying to stop wasting time on social media, delete your account, turn off notifications or download an app that blocks certain websites.
6. Keep track of your progress.
Journaling is a great way to stay on track and look back at your progress. The act of writing down what you've accomplished can give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated to continue.
7. Make adjustments as needed.
If, at first, you don't succeed, tweak your approach until you find something that works for you. Don't be afraid to try different strategies until you find something that works well.
8. Take it one day at a time.
Don't look too far into the future; concentrate on your next step, and don't worry about what might happen in weeks or months from now. If you do this, then today is the only day that matters to you!
9. Reward yourself
Rewarding yourself for your hard work is an essential part of the habit change process. Whether it's a day off, a trip away or just some quality time with loved ones, take time to enjoy what you've achieved and don't forget to celebrate!
10. Take care of yourself.
Make sure you get enough sleep and eat well. Eat a balanced diet, and be sure to include protein-rich foods each day.
These things will keep you healthy, strong and ready for the challenges of habit change.
11. Remember that it's not all or nothing.
You don't have to give up your old habits completely; substitute them with better ones where you can.
For example, if you usually eat cookies as a reward for completing a report, try setting aside your favourite fruit instead.
12. Keep the end goal in mind.
The most powerful thing about habit change is that it makes you feel great, and this feeling of success will make you want to continue doing things that help your overall well-being.
13. Use positive self-talk
Like in any other aspect of life, the mind to body connection is real and using positive self-talk will help you get through the rough patches.
If you are having trouble with one of your habits, try to tell yourself that it is possible to change. People do it every day.
If you need a little extra motivation to get started on the track, write down all of the reasons why you want to make this change and hang it up on your wall or in a place where you can see it every day.
Even if you don't believe that you can make this change, remember that millions of others had put in the work to make a habit change before and succeeded.
14. Don't let setbacks discourage you.
If you slip up, don't worry about it. Please don't beat yourself up for it either; get back on track and remember that it will take time to make lasting changes in your life.
Final thoughts on changing habits
Breaking habits can be hard, but it's worth the effort. When you change a habit, there is an incredible number of benefits that come with it.
You'll feel better about yourself, and your health will improve dramatically.
This article has discussed some of the most important things that you need to do to make your habit change successful.
While it's not always easy, take pride in yourself for trying and encourage others around you to do the same! Good luck with this new venture, and remember, if you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.