We all have habits. We tend to think of most of them as negative. Picking your nose, cravings, over-sleeping, taking short-cuts. They are all habits and all which we probably see as negative.
We often use the term ‘I just got into the habit of it’ when we describe using these habits.
But, what if habits could be positive as well as negative? What if we could develop good habits that lead us to be more successful rather than harmful? How about breaking and removing some of the negative habits we have?
Well, we can. We just need to understand how habits work and how to build positive habits rather than negative.
What is a Habit?
A habit is something we do regularly either unconsciously or something driven by a craving that we give in to.
How to Change and Develop Habits
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes how habits work. Despite the fact that everyone is different, his research suggests that all habits have a simple neurological loop – a cue, a routine, a reward.
No matter how may times we say we won’t do it again; we end up going back and repeating the habit.
It’s this loop that we either need to break to rid ourselves of negative habits or use in to develop positive habits.
In a recent post, Charles Duhigg describes a habit that he had when writing his book. He found himself going the canteen each afternoon for a cookie. It’s this example that he uses when trying to break down what a habit is and how to break it. You need to figure out your habit loop.
To break the habit, there are 3 things we need to identify:
- What ‘s the routine? This means identifying exactly what you are doing. What is the behaviour you are demonstrating that you would like to change?
- What’s the cue for the routine. Or, what triggers it? Is it hunger, boredom, fear, annxiety?
- Idenifying the reward. What do you get as a result of the habit?
The reward is an important thing to undertand. When we get the reward we are likely to get a hit of dopemine in the brain that gives us satisfaction. It’s this dopemine hit that we crave and is why we likely repeat the habit. It becomes a craving.
Breaking the habit comes from experimenting with rewards. To change the reward you have to change the routine.
So, when you get the urge (after the cue) to satisfy your craving, do something different to what you normally would do. Even if it’s slightly different it’s progress. Then, slowly change it again then again untill the routine is different. Then, recognise what reward you get from your new routine.
If the reward doesn’t satisfy the craving, then change the routine again unil you do find something that gives you a decent enough dopemine hit, but isn’t doing any damage. A positive reward!
Using the habit loop, we can develop really positive habits. For example, recognising that you are stressed and doing something to mae you feel better is positive. Regonising that you need energy or a chnage of scenery or a chaneg of direction then doing something about it can lead to much better results for you.
A habit will always remain a habit unless you break the habit loop that triggers it then deliveres the satisfaction as a result of doing it.