Day #928: How Understanding the Habit Loop Can Save Your New Year Resolution

We are creatures  of habit and without knowing it, we unconsciously do some things. Even things we want to stop doing.

It’s possible you have made a resolution to cut snacking and eat healthy this year. However, your environment is still set up to encourage snacking. So within the first day of returning to your natural ecosystem (office,school,etc) , you find yourself doing the same thing you said you wouldn’t do. There you go, your new year’s resolution is out of the window.

The key is to seek to change the habit loop before we can change the habit. Say you always get hungry at 3pm and your regular behavior to grab a snack. However, this year, you resolved to eat more healthy. So 3pm comes the week after the holidays and you feel the urge to snack, what do you do? 8 out of 10 times you go and grab the snack.

According to Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habits, first key to changing any habit is to notice the ‘cue’ and replace the ‘Routine’ that gives you the same ‘Reward’ that habit will give you. Duhigg recommends that you “think deliberately about the cues and rewards you want to establish in your life that will encourage good behaviour”.

According to Charles, cues that trigger a habit sequence can fall into one of five categories:

  1. A certain time of day
  2. A certain place
  3. The presence of certain people
  4. A particular emotion
  5. A preceding behaviour that’s been ritualized

Duhigg recommends you start off by introducing a few cues from a few different categories of triggers.”Your brain will ultimately latch onto one of them, but you want to throw out a bunch of candidates.”

I have used snacking but you can replace the habit with drinking, smoking or any negative habit you want to change. You can apply it to positive habits you want to start imbibing such as saving more money, reading, calling your parents. Find the cue, replace the routine- find a routine that gives you the same reward as the routine you are trying to replace.

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