Habitual patterns, how they are formed and how they can be optimised.
Habit: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
A habit is a routine of behaviour, that can be conscious or unconscious action. A habit is fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling. They are acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience. Research estimate that 40 to 50 percent of our actions on any given day are done out of habit. Habits are automatic choices that influence the conscious decision that follows. Breaking a habit requires effort, but there are things you can do to ease the process and set yourself up for long-term successful creation of a new habit.
Habits are the entry level to optimisation. You have to standardise before you optimise. You can’t reach somethings optimal until its a foundation first.
Why We Return To Harmful Habits?
We might know that something we do out of habit, is not serving us in the greatest way. For example; looking at social media whilst in line, reaching for the ice cream from the freezer after diner or not making our beds in the morning. We may be aware that we outcome of these habitual experiences is a negative emotion, yet still seem to forget when we are in the moment of habitual reaction.
For our brains, a pattern of self sabotaging familiarity is less scary than the unknown. It requires your brain and body to work harder and become uncomfortable, in order to choose a new choice that is unknown. This is why some people can become addicted to a toxic relationship, as it is what they have become so familiar with, that the idea of change seems debilitating.
In order to create a new habit we have to first let go of the ones that are no longer serving us. Knowing that we are only damaging ourselves by not being willing to let them go and try something new.
Radical honesty challenge:
On a piece of paper write, dived the page into 2 columns.
- Harmful Habits I Have:
- Helpful Habits I Want:
Underneath each heading explore being radically honest about what habits are hurting you and what habits you deeply desire.
Habit Replacement Technique
With calling on a perception shift and aligning our thoughts, actions and reactions to our new ideal, we can we can adapt the old habits by simply swapping a bad habit with a better alternative. This way our brain in still being stimulated by the same cue and craving but our response becomes conscious and therefore we experience a different reward.
You have a bad habit at reaching for a sugary soda at 3 pm.
Your cue is usually when you notice it is 3pm, you have trained your mind to see the clock and send a craving to the brain for a soda, your response is walking to the fridge and cracking open a drink, your reward is the soda that has satisfied the craving.
Re frame with a habit replacement
You notice its 3pm (cue), you consciously acknowledge the (craving) for the soda and proceed to (respond) walk over to the fridge, the (reward) has now been replaced by and infused sparkling water which you prepared the night before.
Setting Yourself Up For A Successful Habit
Give your new habits the best possible chance to succeed.
This looks like planning and getting yourself organised, prior to the action.
For example, laying out your running shoes, by the door, the night before. Pre-paying for a workout class, for accountability. Replacing the cookie car on the counter top with a fruit bowl, for easy accessibility. Leaving a water bottle by your bed so you can drink water first thing in the morning. Setting a reminder to meditate at 5 pm etc…
The point is, if we make our new habits easier for ourselves, the more likely they will become habitual. We have to make the new habit as appealing and attractive as possible, in order for our brains to choose it over our previous tendencies.
For me, a habit I always struggled with was checking social media when I was out and about. I had already created a successful habit around not checking it in the morning or evening, but once I left the house for the day, I would fill my spare moments up with a mindless scroll. Like when waiting in a line, being in a car or waiting for a barista to make my coffee.
It was these micro moments which I was filling up with, becoming disconnected to the present moment. I realised one day, that I was missing out on the small things. The smile I could have shared, the conversation I could of had, the flash moment of joy I could find.
I decided I would create a new habit of not checking social media, whilst I was out of the house. For this new habit, I created a life changing habit hack:
1.Remove all notifications from your phone
2. Remove the apps from your home screen.
I began to realise that by having the app hidden, my brain didn’t even get the cue to check it! Before it was like an automatic routine of pressing to open the app that was my body bypassing my brain. When I discovered this I was shocked that I had trained my thumbs to do this, without my mental permission. So when I removed the app, my thumbs still returned to the same pattern, yet the app was not there, a shock of memory then burst into my brain, remembering my new habit and then I noticed I didn’t even want to check the app and the effort of finding it, simply wasn’t worth it.
Why this works
I began to take control over how my new habit was going to be created, all it took was to set myself up for success. It really is like the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’. So what we do want to have in our sights, is all the things that are going to support our new healthy habits.
Top tips to train the mind to create healthy habit ideas:
- Set a timer to remind you to meditate.
- Lay your work out clothes out the night before, or pack them in your bag for after work.
- Book into workout classes ahead of time By per-paying for your workouts, it adds an extra layer of commitment and accountability.
- Keep a pair of trainers in the back of your car, for any spare time you could go for a walk.
- Only buy groceries that will help you make healthy choices, if its not going to support your goals, do not have it in the house.
- Create a weekly meal plan, so you can buy the ingredients, save money and reduce waste.
- Have a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter top, for quick grab and go option.
- Place more unhealthier (treat) options, on the back shelves of cabinets.
- Leave a book on your bedside table, to remind you to read before bed.
- Plug your phone charger in a socket, outside your bedroom, so you can sleep device free. (If you use it for your alarm, by a real alarm!)
These are just a few habits that I have found to be simple yet effective ways to optimise my day to day.
Write down the helpful ways you are going to make your new habits successful…
I hope you enjoyed reading this post on habits and happy habit creating!
This post was written by Amelia Crossley