Want to Change Your Habits? Read This First!
Get clarity before making changes!
You’re standing in the kitchen looking around and you can’t even remember why you came into the room in the first place. You reach inside the bag of chips, discover you’re holding the last one and can barely recall eating all of them. Netflix asks you “Are you still watching?” and you realize you just spent the last 3 hours binging a program. “Yes” to all of these for me!
So much of our days and actions are filled with being on “autopilot.” But, relax. Guess what? It’s not only normal, we are hardwired to save energy and brainpower by settling into familiar patterns of behavior. We know these repeated, automatic actions as habits.
From turning on the coffee maker first thing in the morning to brushing your teeth before bed, our days are significantly comprised of our habits. According to a study from psychologist Wendy Woods of USC, 43% of our daily actions are habits carried out while we are thinking of something else.
It’s no wonder then that when it comes to wanting to start a new habit, change an existing habit or stop a habit that no longer serves you, we need to bring some awareness and clarity to the actions we are carrying out each day. Rather than just relying on motivation to keep us sticking with our workout routines or blaming our midnight snacks on a lack of willpower, we can set ourselves up for greater success if we have a better understanding of what we are doing, how we do it, and what we gain from our habits.
The extremely popular book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear describes our habits through his concept of a habit loop:
Cue ➡️ Craving ➡️ Response ➡️ Reward
The cue is something that sparks action as it tells our brain to anticipate a reward. Perhaps the cue is seeing an advertisement of a delicious meal, a feeling of stress from a fight with your kids, or the time immediately after dinner. The cue tells our brains that there is a reward available to us.
Craving is the feeling of desire and motivation that drives our action. Instead of craving the actual habit, it is usually a desire for some kind of emotional state such as feeling satisfied, more relaxed, more energized, some relief and more.
Response is the action or habit that is carried out. It’s reaching for the comfort food, going for a walk after meal , turning on the TV, brushing our teeth before bed and so much more.
Reward is what you gain from performing a habit. The reward is what satisfies your craving and keeps you repeating an action over and over again until it becomes a habit. A reward could be the boost we get after a cup of coffee, the relief from boredom when we binge a snack or watch TV, or the stress relief after we finish a workout.
The more often we complete a habit loop the more ingrained it becomes. But that’s not to say it’s impossible to break the cycle .
If you are looking to tweak your daily habits, start with getting clarity first! Pick up a pen and paper and take an honest look at your actions each day.
What habits are positive in your day? Negative? Neutral?
What cues in your environment initiate a craving ?
What IS it that you are craving?
What reward do you receive through carrying out the habit?
Stay tuned in future newsletters as we will delve into HOW to change, improve existing habits and adopt new habits!