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Want to Break a Bad Habit? Science Says Do These 4 Things

https://www.inc.com/melody-wilding/psychology-says-this-is-how-you-change-a-bad-habit-for-good.html

inc.com

Want to Break a Bad Habit? Science Says Do These 4 Things
It's 3 p.m., and you're knee-deep in an afternoon energy slump. You head towards the office kitchen to grab a glass of water where you're encountered by a box of treats that seems to be calling your name. "Just one," you swear. But that's the third time you've given in to your sweet tooth this week.

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Anticipate Setbacks

Behavior change is hard. Slip-ups are common, so when they happen, don't beat yourself up or retreat into negative self-talk. Instead, anticipate your failures and plan for them.

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Commit To Change And Tweak as You Go

Make achievable commitments to test new routines and approach it as a series of experiments.

Try your new routine for a while and tweak it or switch to a new one if it doesn’t suit you.

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Explore Alternatives

Once you have a clear breakdown of what's happening at each stage of your habit loop, brainstorm healthier routines that will produce the results you want.

Create a list of options of alternatives that might provide comparable reward to the one you are trying to eliminate. Focus on new routines that will help you decompress after a stressful day (the cue) and leave you in a positive frame of mind to get freelance work done (reward).

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Identify The Stages

First identify the cue, routine, and reward that lead to your habit. Look at the circumstances surrounding the behavior including the time of day, who you're with, and what emotions you're feeling.

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The Psychology Of Bad Habits

Habits are comprised of cue, routine and reward. The cue triggers a routine, and the routine generates a reward.

The habit loop is powerful and hardwired into our psyches, which explains why it is so hard to shake. We actually never break bad habits, but replace them with more positive alternatives.

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Struggling To Build Healthy Habits

  • We tend to bite off more than we can chew, go too fast too soon, and then get overwhelmed too quickly.
  • We’re conditioned these days to expect and receive instant gratification.

Your “Big Why”

As you’re determining the habits or resolutions you’re trying to set, make the habit part of a bigger cause that’s worth the struggle.

You’re not just going to the gym, you’re building a new body that you’re not ashamed of so you can start dating again.

Healthy Habit Building 101

There are 3 parts to a good or bad habit: Cue (what triggers the action), Routine (the action itself), Reward (the positive result because of the action).

You have trained your brain to take a cue (you see a doughnut), anticipate a reward (a sugar high), and make the behavior automatic (nom that donut). 

Compare that to a cue (you see your running shoes), anticipate a reward (a runner’s high), and make the behavior automatic (go for a run!).

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Willpower is Limited

Willpower is Limited

Though companies like Nike try to ignite our willpower with their slogans, ultimately willpower cannot squash our subconscious and unconscious behavior.

Repetition of action and thought can...

Knowledge is not Enough When It Comes To Bad Habits

Just merely knowing something is good or bad for you is not going to give you any benefit, unless the implementation is done. Conscious knowledge cannot change your behavior, one has to make necessary changes to successfully act in self-control.

If you know that you will eat junk food because your refrigerator is filled with it, remove all the junk food.

Adding Friction To Bad Habits

Just as removing friction aids in doing the activity more often, adding friction can aid to remove the bad habit, by making it difficult or cumbersome to do so.

Example: Cigarette smoking declined due to adding taxes, banning in public places and removing from vending machines.

Chunking - The Root of Habits

The process in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine is known as ‘chunking,’ and it’s at the root of how habits form.

Habits emerge...

...because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. 

It will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often. This effort-saving instinct is a huge advantage. 

The 3 Step Loop of Habit Formation:

  • First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.
  • Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional.
  • Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.