Old Habits Die Hard

Do you ever do things throughout the day and say to yourself "Why can't I stop doing ____?"

A lot of things we do (good and bad) happen in what's called a habit loop. We subconsciously have a cue (or a trigger), routine, and reward. This could be boredom as a cue, eating a go-to snack as the routine, and a feeling of satisfaction as the reward. In other less ideal settings, this can be stress as the cue, drinking alcohol as the routine, and the feeling of calmness as the reward. In these scenarios we may have not been hungry, or had a craving for our favorite beer- yet we seem to have consumed them anyway.

As many of us continue to look to make changes that we can stick to- how can we take this simple yet seemingly impossible task of forming better habits to hang around for the long haul? Well.... the same way the bad ones do.

Take work stress for example. Most have it, and some deal with it better than others. The stress may always be there as the cue, and our brain craves relief and relaxation as the reward- now what can we insert as the routine to fill that void? Instead of that drink after work, try walking outside for 20 minutes to unwind. Instead of a cigarette during a lunch break, try to find a different stimulant like a cup of coffee. Try to keep track of the inserted routines until something is found that seems to fill the void.

This new routine will close this habit loop answering the cue and giving the brain the same reward- all we did was change the routine. Over time a new habit will be formed that happens without thinking. Now, obviously some will be harder to break than others, but sometimes all it takes is bringing a little clarity to a situation to act on it!

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