I went to my girlfriend's bachelorette and had an absolute blast! Having a girls weekend can be epic and so inspiring. I had more than one conversation about changing lifestyle HABITS. Eating better, taking care of yourself, more sleep, more water, stretching...well, the list goes on...
Habits are a strange thing. We learn these behaviours over years and years of repetition that our brains don't even need to think twice about the action, it becomes almost second nature. Bad habits like smoking, drinking and eating poorly can be extremely challenging to remove, but not impossible. Improvements like adding more water, exercise, vegetables, or sleep; to decreasing your intake of coffee, carbs, potato chips, (fill in the blank) are just as challenging to change, if not worse, due to their acceptable nature, but everyday brings a new challenge and what it comes down to is practice and knowing your habits.
I started thinking: how does one change?
It all starts with a want. Get to the source of what you want to change.
When I gave up smoking - yes, I used to smoke - it took years of trying, trial and error. I needed more than the want to stop, I had to change my HABITS; my route to work, when I took coffee breaks and all of my nighttime routines.
Habits, good or bad, become second nature and a part of our being. Banishing bad habits can be tricky, but knowing how they work and how you can overcome them is the true key.
In the book, "The Power of Habit" Charles Duhigg explains it's
starts with a CUE.
Cues come in different forms, such as:
location- a certain place
time- of day/year/month
emotional state - happy/sad/depressed
others individuals - family/specific friends
immediately proceeding action - an event or activity
Certain places, times, people or events can cue or trigger certain patterns of activity. For example, you get excited when meeting up with a certain friend because you know you will have wine or taking a certain way to work because of the good bakery you pass along the way. Identifying what your cue is the first step is changing habits.
Next comes the ROUTINE.
Identifying your routine is the hardest part of change. The routine is the pattern that is the ultimate outcome of the cue.
For example, it's 3 pm. You take your pile of copies and go towards the copy machine. While completing your copies, you saunter into the kitchen and grab a cookie. Months of this behaviour and you have put on a couple pounds. You think to yourself how did this happen?
So the CUE would be the time of day, the ROUTINE - getting your copies done and going to the kitchen.
The REWARD, well is the cookie.
What if you don't want the cookie anymore? What do you do about the extra weight? How do you change?
As I mentioned before, it is possible but it may be challenging. Identifying your cue, routine and reward is key to changing habits. Some may be easier like changing up your routine; taking a different route to work, retiming your tasks, rescheduling things and making time for others.
I found that changing your routine helps with breaking the habit. I used to take the same way to work during the summer in which I ended up increasing my coffee intake. I would stop and get a coffee on the way to work, finish it by the time I got there and then got another to start work. When I changed my route, there was no where to stop for my first coffee and so I had to wait until I got to work.
Here are some tips that helped me change some of my habits:
Change up my routine - new route to work, timing of tasks, went to gym before work, brushed my teeth
Build a new and healthier reward for breaking the bad habit
Journal when cravings arose, and take a break, have some water and continue on
Stopped hanging out with bad influences- or at least decrease the social habit
One thing that Charles Duhigg also suggests is to make "key stone" habits. Those are small wins or intentions that create the bigger picture of a better habit.
For example, creating a diet journal to keep on track of your diet. This journalling will give you a picture of the things that you are eating which will hopefully lead to you not continuing with bad habits.
So what if you want to add a new habit like working out, drinking more water or just eating healthier? This changes slightly in your behaviours because you have to start and make the new habit.
Set your cue: Writing down your new goal is a good start. Somewhere you will see it daily, like an alarm on your phone or a post-it note on your bathroom mirror. Make time for it by putting it in your schedule.
Make your routine: If you want to start hitting the gym, make time for it in your schedule, have a preset workout you want to do, go to the gym and work it! Even if for the first couple of weeks you don't workout, take the time to at least get ready and step into the gym. Make it a part of your day so that it starts to become habit. The first few weeks will be a challenge. But you got this!
But let's be honest with ourselves. The want has to be there for you to want to change things. It's not about what others around you think about, but it's truly about your self-relationship.