Habits 101

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We all have habits. Good habits, bad habits, and habits that you don’t even realize you have! When it comes to changing habits or creating a new one, many of us struggle. Let’s face it, creating new habits is HARD. Sometimes it feels down-right impossible to start doing something new. You find yourself “falling off the bandwagon” sometimes even after staying true to your habit for months. Why does this happen?!

There is some science behind habits, and furthermore, there are ways to learn more about yourself to hijack your own habits to get the results you want!

Habits are hardwired in your brain. This hardwiring is what makes it hard to create new ones. Your brain functions off efficiency. When you try to create a new pathway, you have to fight your brain to take a new route. It’s much like driving to work and from work after moving to a new home. Inevitably, after a long day, you’ll end up driving to your old place even if you’ve lived at your new place for months. Likewise, after a tough day, you will find it harder to stick to your newer, healthier habits.

Let’s dive into the structure of habits. Every habit (good or bad) functions on a habit loop. The habit loop looks like this: cue → routine → reward. This framework was created by MIT researchers while researching brain pathways related to habits. If you’re trying to kick a habit, there are a number of things you can do, but there are a few things that typically work best.

  1. Write out your current habit loop, identify the specific, cues, routines and rewards.
  2. Create a new habit loop. Make the cue, routine and reward specific but also sustainable.
  3. Remove cues from the old habit (if possible).
  4. Plan for failure using if-then scenarios so help  you succeed when your willpower tank is running low.
  5. Learn more about yourself by practicing mindfulness during this process and reading about tendencies and habits. The better you understand yourself, the more tools you have to be successful!

Self-growth is one of the best ways to start living the life that you want. One of the self-growth tools I’ve learned about in the past few years is Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. The Four Tendencies is a framework to help people understand how they respond to both inner and outer expectations. Most people fit into one of the following categories: Upholder, Obliger, Rebel or Questioner. According to Rubin, most people are obligers, meaning they respond well to outer expectations but poorly to inner expectations. Translation: setting goals for yourself usually ends up as a failure. You succeed when you set up some sort of external accountability or if someone else creates goals for you. You can harness your success with meeting outer expectations by setting up external accountability to help you achieve your personal goals!

Let’s summarize what we learned today.

  • We learned that our brains are hardwired for efficiency and ease, but YOU are stronger and can overcome using the tools we learned!
  • Habits work on a loop of cue routine reward. To create a new habit or overwrite an old one, you MUST create an enticing and sustainable habit loop complete with a reward that is healthy and makes sense for you.
  • Planning for failure using if-then scenarios helps you succeed when your willpower is low.
  • Learning more about yourself and how you respond to expectations can be a gamechanger when creating new habits.

Now go out there and crush those new habits!

If you’re interested in more reading materials about habits, check out these books: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin.

Molly Seifert, LulaFit 

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