A habit is a behavior that occur subconsciously and repeated regularly. Habits are also the small decisions taken by us and the actions we perform regularly. A habit may initially be triggered by a goal. As time goes on goal becomes less necessary and habit becomes automatic through regular repetition.
Each habit offers neuro-chemical prizes by triggering our emotions. Some are simple, but some are complex. Even through habits are so much part of one’s life some habits cause health issues. Habits like being alcoholic, eating junk food etc need to be changed. Most people find it very difficult to change a habit. In this article we am trying to show some scientific approaches to help you changeor develop a habit for good.
Changing a habit need willpower along with systematic understanding about how habits work. Let us do this by taking an example. Suppose you eat junk food for lunch every day along with friends. This has led to increase in your weight considerably. You know taking junk food daily contribute to this and want to change the habit. So, you have done certain steps to recover from your bad habits.
• Step One: Identify the Routine
At first you have to understand your own habit, then you need to identify the components of your loops. After identifying the habit loop of your behavior, you should look for new methods to avoid the old habits and start a new routine.
Consider that you have a bad habit of having junk food. For example, at your work place, for a long time every afternoon you used to go to cafeteria and have junk food and enjoy with your friends. And due this habit you gain weight. You have tried many methods to stop this habit by keeping a screen saver in your desktop that, you will not have junk food anymore.
But each afternoon you will again go to cafeteria by ignoring the note and have your junk food and chat with your friends. But after that you feels so bad for having junk food. Next day you try to resist the junk food but your habit takes hold again. How do you ever hope to change this behavior?
Routine is the most obvious aspect for most of the habits. So, first you should identify your routine. Suppose your routine is that you get up from your desk in the afternoon, walk to the cafeteria, buy junk food and eat it with friends while chatting. Then you
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should ask few questions to yourself: What is the cue for this routine? Is it hunger? Or is it boredom? That you need a break from the work? Or just to chat with the friends?
To figure out this, you will have to do some experimentation.
• Step Two: Experimentation
Powerful desires can actually drive our behavior which we are not conscious about. These desires can be satisfied by rewards. One should experiment on different rewards for understanding which cravings are driving particular habits. This could take a few days, weeks or more that. But time doesn’t matter, you should be fully relaxed to make a real change.
As the first step of experimentation, you should adjust your routine, when you feel that you are submitting yourself to a habit. For example, if you are having a habit of having junk food, but instead of walking to cafeteria you can walk around the block and go back to your desk without eating anything.
At the second day, instead of having junk food bring home prepared food and eat it at your desk. The next day, buy some fruits and eat it while chatting with friends. And at next day try something else and then go around the office talk to friends and after few minutes go back to your desk.
Now will get the idea that eating junk food is not the important, the point is to test different hypotheses to see which desire is driving your routine. After this experimentation you will have to ask yourself these questions:
Are you really craving the junk food, or is it a break from work? If it is the junk food, is it because you are hungry? Or are you wandering up to the cafeteria as an excuse to socialize, and the junk food is just a convenient excuse?
After testing four or five rewards, you study the patterns of your habits: in the end of each experiment, note down the first three things which comes into your mind in a piece of paper. That can be anything any emotions, any random thoughts or your feelings. It is because that these things give a momentary awareness of what you are thinking or feeling.
At the end of the experiment, when you review the notes, you can easily understand what you were thinking and feeling after you got the reward. This will help you to
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figure out and can isolate what you are actually craving and it is important for redesigning the habit. Once you have identified the routine and the reward, the next step is to figure out the cue. After that you will be ready to execute a plan.
• Step Three: Isolate the Cue
Cues are the triggers for our habitual behaviors. To figure out these cues we can use the same system for research and identify the category of behavior with their patterns. Experiments have shown that habitual cues fall in into five categories that is location, time, emotional state, other people, immediately preceding action.
Collect the information for these five things: Where are you? What time is it? What is your emotional state? Who else is around? What action preceded the urge?
Once you have figured your own habit loop, you can begin to shift the behavior. You can develop a better routine by making plans for the cue and can choose a behavior that more constructively delivers the real rewards you are carving.
• Step Four: Have a Plan
A habit is a choice we make at some point of time and the stop thinking about it and do it continuously. In another way, a habit is a formula our brain automatically follows that is when you see this cue, you will do this routine in order to get that reward.
To correct this formula, we have to make conscious choices. And the easiest way to do this is to have a plan. Within psychology, these plans are known as “implementation intentions”.
Changing certain habits can be very difficult. It takes a long time to bring changes to a habit and it takes repeated experiments and failures. And sometimes it is incredibly hard. But once you understand how these habits are operating, you can gain power over it and you can be on your own way.