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  • Writer's pictureJason St Clair Newman

CAUGHT IN THE HABIT - Getting to the bottom of habit forming

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Good Habits, Bad Habits and why its so hard to set new ones, get rid of bad ones and a game plan for both.

We all know that having good habits is obviously something that will benefit our health both physically and mentally, and we also know the opposite...

bad habits undermine these areas.

Why is it some people seem to be able to be on top of this while others attempts at changing only result in returning back to the same old familiar things and another year of goals brushed aside?

First let's take a look at how a habit can be formed.

In Charles Duhigg's book, The Power of Habit he explains that a habit starts out as a deliberate, conscious choice that now is something you automatically do without thinking about it.

Think about how many people now start the day by reaching for their phone to check what's on the screen, finish the day with a hot shower before bed or even finish the day reading their messages or surfing the net on their phone before turning the light off.

After a while these deliberate choices become an automatic process where the person doesn't even think about it, they just do it.

So who do these habits get formed...?

Habits tend to start with a cue, for example a phone sitting right next to your bed and it being one of the first things you see when you wake up.

The cue then triggers what comes next ... the craving, that thing that drives you to take action .. "I wonder what messages I have, emails I received, how many likes did my post get etc etc, which is often accompanied with an emotional response.

Next comes the actual response of taking action, grabbing the phone to look at the screen and seeing the little red dots.

This is all finished off with the reward "Yay I got 10 new emails and 3 messages and 30 likes"

If this reward ends up satisfying the action enough times it will be embedded.

Of importance to note, in James Clear's Book "Atomic Habits" he states that if all these processes are present the habit will begin to appear, however eliminating even one of these steps and the habit formation won't form.

In short, don't put your phone next to your bed when you sleep.

Now you understand a little bit about the how you are able to form a habit, and even take steps to break one, you can see how you can use this to your advantage for your health and mental well being.

Below is a simple yet effective game plan, like any game plan there maybe events you haven't prepared for or seen coming but having a plan gives you something to follow and be adpative to when those times occur.

Your Habit Strategy

  1. Identify what is the cue if its a bad habit, or what cue you can use for a good one you would like to form.

  2. Try to work out what your cue is trying to satisfy if it s bad one, or what could be a good outcome of your positive cue (this may take some time to work out especially if you haven't actually experienced enough times what it is that is good about what you are doing).

  3. Take the action needed to stop the actual response (remove the phone), and in the case of forming a good habit actually carry out the what you are wanting to achieve take for example the breathing routine Daryl has talked about to wake your body up for the day.

  4. Remove the reward for the bad habit, and in the case of the good habit you are wanting to form take note of how you feel after doing the breathing, eating well, exercising, meditating for 5 minutes etc, notice how much better you feel!

In finishing there are many ways we can start to form new positive habits that impact our health and mental well being, it can be as simple as leaving your gym bag packed and ready to go for when you wake up, filling the fridge with healthy options so when you open it you see good foods- not pizza and beer, setting up a space for you to breathe/meditate with a pillow on the floor to remind you, or leaving out a glass ready next to your water jug and putting your water bottle on your desk at work.

If you follow those simple steps aligned above you will be well on your way to breaking bad habits that go against your desire to be healthy and forming new habits to reinforce your health and wellbeing goals.

As a side note, I highly recommend the books mentioned if you are interested more in the subject of habits and habit forming they give you a great information on the subjects.

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