5 Ways to Break Your Habits

A habit is a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously. In the American College of Psychology it is defined as; “A habit, in the standpoint of psychology, is a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience. Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed in a person exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. Habits are sometimes compulsory. Wikipedia states that the process by which new behaviors become automatic is habit formation. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because of the behavioral patterns we repeat are imprinted into our neural pathways, but it is possible to form new habits through repetition.

There you go “through repetition.”  This is how we can form new habits.

Think about this for a minute. When you were a young child you had to brush your teeth before bed, wash your hands before dinner, say please and thank you, and so on and so forth. Thinking back on what created these habits are performing “repetitions” of a particular movement right? But if we were to break down what habits we execute each day we can see that most of these are performed without even truly acknowledging it…meaning we just do it because we have to. For instance, I don’t want to brush my teeth, but I know I have to or else I would get cavities, or have bad breath. So I brush my teeth each day to ensure that I don’t get cavities or have bad breath. These daily habits or routine has been adapted, changed, and modified since we were young kids, well into our adult life.

Well let’s think of some more detail of what could be considered some habits or routines.

For example:

Your daily habits may include:

  1. Health
  • Sleeping 8 hours
  • Eating
  • Brushing teeth
  • Using the restroom
  • Getting dressed
  • Showering
  • Shaving
  1. Recreational behaviors
  • Working
  • Drinking
  • Eating out
  • Watching television
  • Binge eating
  • Inactivity

So you are ready to form new habits, but you’re at the point where you just don’t know how to form them. Well let’s think and analyze why you aren’t going to the gym. Maybe your closets in another room and you have to walk out into the cold hallway to put on your clothes. Maybe it was just easier to stay in bed. Once you learn what the “bad habit” is or what “needs to change” you can start there.

  • Use SELF REFLECTION for figuring out what can be causing this behavior of not going to the gym. It’s easy to make excuses, and those excuses add up over time. Try this instead.
  • Form PREPARATION to go to the gym prior to the excuse. Set out your gym clothes, water bottle, gym bag, gym shoes, all ready to go right there in front of you, so when you wake up there will be NO EXCUSES! Visualization is a great way to help see yourself doing things, and according to a study from UCLA it states that “mental simulatations can enhance the link between thoughts and action.
  • Create REINFORCERS, preferably positive ones. Positive Reinforcement can be more pleasant and effective than any other training methods. If you’re trying to improve exercise adherence, you can use positive reinforcers such as; since I went to the gym four times this week, and that was my goal, I will treat myself to a bubble bath. Creating a positive outcome for yourself will only make you more opt and more willing to do so in the future. Same as positive reinforcement, you can use negative reinforcers. Such as, I didn’t make it into the gym four times this week like I had planned, so I will not be able to watch my favorite TV show. For negative and positive reinforcement, it’s important to remain consistent. To be consistent enough, you will simply have to choose your criteria and stick with it, until the behavior is good enough to up the ante.
  • Choose a CUE, such as going to the gym as soon as you wake up, and a reward, such as a smoothie after each workout. Then think about that smoothie, about that endorphin rush you’ll feel. Allow yourself to anticipate the reward. Eventually that craving will make it easier to push throughout the gym doors every day. Of course this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Forming new habits is hard. Just because you are telling yourself that there is a reward at the end doesn’t necessarily mean that the habit will stick, but creating that repetition with it will help it sink in, so your brain comes to crave the reward.
  • Starting a ROUTINE and breaking the old one is the most difficult tasks, but when your brain starts expecting the reward, craving the endorphins or sense of accomplishment, it will become automatic to hit the gym each morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.

Step 1:

SELF REFLECT

∙ What is causing the behavior?

∙ What can I do to change the behavior?

Step 2:

PREPARATION

Visualize the behavior change.

∙ Put clothing, shoes, gym bag, water, driving or walking to the gym, arriving at the gym, doing your workout routine, all helps to insure your first thought when you wake up is ok, “I WILL BE GOING TO THE GYM TODAY,” giving you no time for excuses.

Step 3:

REINFORCERS

Positive Reinforcement

∙Negative Reinforcement

Step 4:

CUES

Reward system

∙Creating repetition

Step 5:

ROUTINE

∙ Brain starts expecting reward

∙ Cue — Routine — Craving Reward — New Habit

We have all managed to implement new habits for a month or two, only to have them compromised when we are under extreme stress. If we truly want to avoid slipping back into our old ways, there is a final key ingredient: Belief. For habit to stay changed you must believe that change is possible.

“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

-Aristotle

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