Habits: How To Make and Break Them

What is a habit? A habit is a choice that we deliberately make at some point and then stop thinking about but continue doing often. 

What are the ingredients of a habit loop? 

1. Trigger (cue)

2. Routine (actual behavioral habit)

3. Reward (satisfaction from the routine, which drives the behavior)

How to break a “bad” habit?

1. Identify routine (behavior you want to change) 

2. Experiment with rewards. Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. Therefore, you need to figure out what you are craving that the routine is helping to satisfy. For instance, imagine you want to break the habit of having a cookie everyday around 1:30pm. The first thing to do is to consider what craving is driving the eating cookie routine: Are you actually craving a cookie or are you just hungry? Are you hungry or do you just want a boost in energy? Are you not hungry nor in need of a sugar high but, instead, just want a break in your day whereby getting a cookie allows you to leave your office and socialize with others? 

3. Isolate the cue, i.e., figure out the cue that is triggering the routine. Questions to help isolate the cue: Where are you? What time is it? What’s your emotional state? Who else is around? What action preceded your urge to behave a certain way?

When you are aware of the cue, you can more easily plan for a contingency plan and avoid the temptation. Moreover, you can deliberately respond to the cue with a new behavior that helps to also satisfy the higher context of the reward you seek. 

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