Healthy, vibrant, energetic lifestyles are simply the accumulation of habits. Getting from a good idea to a habit is, of course, the great challenge that we all must face. In this section, we reveal the latest research findings that can help you to cement all of the great suggestions in this book as lifelong habits.
The Science of Habit Formation
Researchers have identified a habit loop that is the basis of all habits. This neurological loop involves 3 steps:
The Cue, or the trigger that initiates the habit
The Routine, which is the actual habit
The Reward, which you receive afterwards
To illustrate the habit loop, think of checking your Instagram. The cue is the notification. That leads you to checking the message, which is the routine, so that you can enjoy the content (the reward).
Understanding and taking control of the habit loop is the key to acing your habits.
Take Your Habits One by One
The key to successful implementation is to take them one by one. Try to change too many things at once, and you’ll probably fail at all of them.
The first step is to make a list of all of the habits that you want to incorporate into your life. These need to be as specific as possible. One of the habits that we’ll be encouraging in an upcoming section is exercise. So, rather than saying that you want to get into the exercise habit, say that you want to develop the habit of working out for 45 minutes at 7am, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings (or whatever your specific goal is).
Of course, you will probably also have bad habits that you want to get rid of. So, take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left-hand side, start listing all of those bad habits that you want to ditch. Then, on the other side, list the good habits that you’ve learned from this book that you plan to incorporate into your lifestyle. Remember that there are plenty more good habits to be revealed so make sure that the list can be added to.
Now, go back over your lists. Number your bad habits from the top one that you want to get rid of to the least worrying habit. Now focus on your number one bad habit. Find a positive habit on the right-hand side list that naturally replaces it. Let’s say, for example, that your bad habit is eating chocolate cake while watching TV at night. A good habit to replace it might be to begin completing a food journal after dinner. The very act of writing down what you’ve eaten will give you strong motivation not to add anything else to the daily tally.
Controlling Your Environment
The next step on your way to implementing your new habit is to manage your environment. The biggest factor comes down to the people who you regularly associate with. The wrong ones will sabotage your best intentions, no matter how much will-power you’ve got.
You may have to sell your new lifestyle habits to your family and friends to get them to buy into the changes that you’re undertaking.
You should also remove any triggers for your bad habits from your environment. If you’ve got bad habits based upon wrong food choices, be sure to keep those carb laden foods out of your kitchen.
Choose Your Trigger
For your new habit to take hold, you need to come up with a specific cue that will remind you to do the activity over and over again. Here are three effective trigger strategies:
- “If / Then” Intentions
- Habit Stacking
“If / Then” Intentions
With this strategy, you write down your intended new habit in an ‘if… then’ format. For example, your habit might be to exercise during the TV commercials. Write this as, ‘If an ad comes on, I’ll drop and do 10 push-ups.’
With this strategy, you stack a new habit on top of an already ingrained one. Let’s say your new habit is to read the Bible for 30-minutes every evening. You already brush your teeth at night, so pair the two so that as soon as you’ve finished brushing your teeth, you’ll read the Bible.
This one involves scheduling your new habit on your calendar. Plot in the specific days and times that you will do it and add it to your daily ‘To Do’ list.
Create a Reward
Remember back to the habit loop? It involved providing a reward for yourself. This is based on what researchers called operant conditioning. When you have a reward awaiting, you will respond to the new habit routine with pleasure and expectation. Your brain will as a result, connect the new habit with positive feelings.
Keep in mind that the reward doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive. It could be as simple as allowing yourself 15 minutes to watch your favorite YouTube clip. If that is what you enjoy, then it will be enough to provide enough of a reward to fuel the habit loop.
You now know precisely how to create healthy habits Use the Habit Loop system to cement your healthy habits into your lifestyle in order to live the life you deserve.