All of us as the human race have built strong habits, both poor and great. Can we change habits for good?
A key to successful long-lasting change is understanding the process of a habit and then using that information to help us embed new habits. Habits can be created as new; however, we cannot forget the habits we have created!
What is a habit?
- Cue: This is the trigger that causes our brain to follow a habit. An example is starting the car when needing to drive. In an emotional eating habit, the emotions felt are: tired, stressed, angry, happy or excited.
- Routine: This is the action taken caused by the 'Cue'. Example, reversing the car out of the driveway and driving off. In an emotional eating habit, this is actually eating the poor choice of food. A chocolate bar, cake, sugar hit.
- Reward: This is the reward we cure ourselves with, caused by the routine. Example is arriving at the destination that you are driving to. In an emotional eating habit this is the reward feeling. If angry or stressed a piece of chocolate makes us feel better, temporarily. If we are happy or celebrating food makes us feel fulfilled.
These three factors are the pillars of a habit. However, embedding a habit only occurs when the 'routine' causes a 'craving'. Examples of this is the taste of chocolate, the nicotine in a cigarette, the alcohol in a beverage or the spike of insulin when consuming high sugar food. In with the new and out with the old.
To successfully replace a bad habit with a good habit, we first have to recognise our 'Cue' and our 'Reward'. We cannot change these two pillars as they are driven by the world of emotion. However, we can target the 'Routine', as it is a process that we create to satisfy a need. Luckily there are multiple ways to satisfy the same emotional need.
How to successfully change the 'Routine' -These are the steps to take when replacing a poor routine.
- It needs to be able to satisfy the Cue and the Reward. If it is food then it needs to be a food with the same texture and a satisfying taste. Very few people can change chocolate to broccoli.
- The same emotional reward must be satisfied during the routine. If the cue is 'stress' then this emotion must be satisfied. Ensure your new routine is not dependant on other people. Take control of your own destiny.
- The new routine must create a new craving. You must enjoy the taste, feel, texture and the look of the new routine. Stick to it! The more you do it, the more it will embed as a replacement.
When you slip up and you will, don't let it beat you down and jump back onto the new routine the next day. I have used a re-set button on my fridge. When I would have a bad day, I hit that button as hard as I can in the morning and re-set, pick up and get on! After persistence and over time, you will enjoy the positive changes way more than the old bad habit. Your life will be much more fulfilling and give you the opportunity to ENJOY your emotions, LIVE your life and ACHIEVE your own health and fitness dreams.