A habit is something you do repeatedly. An example of a good habit is brushing your teeth in the morning and evening every day.
Many of us have habits we would like to break e.g. night-time snacking on chocolates and crisps. I will be talking about how to break these habits next time, but in the meantime, let’s find out more about habits.
Interesting facts about habits
- Your life is to a large extent the sum of all your habits – good and bad
- You can take control of your life by changing your habits
- Habits never truly disappear. They are just overpowered by other habits
- The brain is programmed to resist change so it’s difficult to modify a habit
- It takes much longer than 21 days to build a new habit
- 40% of our actions are automatic, not conscious decisions, but habits. Think of some of the automatic habits you do – switching on the light, talking on the phone, using a key to lock the door, tying the same shoe first each morning …
How a Habit works
This four-step pattern is the backbone of every habit, and your brain runs through these steps in the same order each time.
Another example of the habit loop
Cue – you open a cupboard and see some chocolate. (You’ve triggered the brain to initiate a behaviour)
Craving – you start thinking about the chocolate and how good it is going to taste. (You don’t crave the chocolate but the feeling of relief it provides)
Response – you eat the chocolate. (This is the actual habit)
Reward – you are feeling great. (You have satisfied the craving)
If your weight loss goal feels impossible or unachievable, alarm bells are likely going off in your brain. The thought of all the changes you need to make in order to see results may be completely daunting. Introducing mini-habits to your eating and activity habits, one step at a time, can be very effective. Little by little, you are sneaking around your brain’s fear reaction and avoiding setting off the alarm. You feel comfortable, in control, and so does your brain!
By building new mini-habits slowly and working towards your goals a little at a time, your brain doesn’t register the big change that is actually occurring.
Make a mini-habit
1. Make it small
2. Make it simple
3. Track and be accountable
4. Know you can do it 100% each time
Ideas for a mini-habit
1. Drink 1 glass of water
2. Walk up some stairs
3. Do some wall push-ups
4. Get some sunshine
6. Eat a piece of fruit
Summary of The Power of Habit – audiobook Charles Duhigg
How to do a wall push up – video
Practicing one strategic habit at a time – article by Dr. J. Berardi, Precision Nutrition