“How to Form Good Habits” written by Guest Contributor.
Have you struggled with how to form good habits? It can be challenging.
How to Form Good Habits That Last
In this blot post I’ll be talking about how to form good habits that last.
But first lets look at how habits get formed…
The Brushing Teeth Example
Let’s take the example of brushing one’s teeth. Hopefully this is a habit for everyone. It has long been considered an important part of grooming. Since as early as 3000 BC when ancient Egyptians constructed crude toothbrushes from twigs and leaves to clean their teeth.
I was surprised to learn, however, that In the United States the practice did not become widespread until after the Second World War, It became a daily habit in part due to one of the nations most prominent ad executives of the time, Claude Hopkins. He started an ad campaign which persuaded the public to get rid of a nasty film on their teeth by brushing and using Pepsodent toothpaste. It wasn’t actually true. You could remove the film just be running your finger across your teeth, but the ad campaign was a brilliant ploy to get the consumer to get in the habit of brushing their teeth. And it worked!
Hopkins convinced people it was needed with two simple rules: a cue or trigger- film on teeth and secondly a reward- the toothpaste’s mere ability to remove plaque would not have been enough, it was the tingling, clean feeling you get after brushing your teeth that was the habit forming reward. When consumers didn’t brush their teeth, they missed that feeling.
How to Form Good Habits Using the Habit Loop
In his new book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg calls this the “habit loop.”
And as the 19th century psychologist William James observed, “All our life … is but a mass of habits.”
The habit loop is a three-part process.
First there’s a cue, which is kind of a trigger for an automatic behavior to start unfolding, then there’s a routine, which is the behavior itself … and then there’s a reward, which tells our brain whether we should store this habit for future use or not.”
The reason why these cues and rewards are so important is because over time, people begin craving the reward whenever they see the cue, and that craving makes a habit.
The science of habit-forming has been used to sell products for decades.
Companies go out of their way to find out what consumers are actually craving,
As an example Duhigg uses in his book is the Proctor and Gamble product Febreeze,an odor eliminator that initially failed when it got to the market.
They thought that consumers would use it to get rid of bad scents, That’s when Proctor & Gamble reformulated Febreeze to include different scents. They figured out through consumer studies that people were craving the scent (reward) after they finished cleaning…a nice smell when everything looks pretty.
McDonanlds makes their french fries a certain way so that you get an immediate hit of salt and grease that triggers pleasure signals to the brain. This sets up a craving for the pleasure response.
Cinnabon World Famous Cinnamon Rolls positions themselves away from the food court at malls so that they don’t compete with other smells. This sets up a craving (trigger) a routine (eating the Cinnabon) and reward (endorphins).
Once Formed.. Habits Are Difficult to Break
Habits form neural grooves and the brain operates automatically. This is why human habits are so hard to break even if in the long term they are bad for you
Eating fast food, drug addiction, or working at a job you hate are all things that are bad for you and cause stress, but because we are addicted to the trigger, routine and reward it’s really tough to replace it with a better routine.
But It’s not impossible.
The good news is that you only have to replace the behavior, not the trigger or the reward.
Here are a few tips for breaking a habit, but first lets go over a familiar example:
You smell cinnamon (trigger). This is the reminder that initiates the behavior. The smell acts as a trigger or cue to tell you to eat a cinnamon roll. It is the prompt that starts the behavior.
You buy a sweet, sticky, calorie laden treat (routine). This is the actual behavior.
You get a flood of feel-good hormones and your craving is relieved This is the reward. The reward is the benefit gained from doing the behavior.
All you have to do is change the routine
Not the trigger
And the reward
Now That You Know How to Form Good Habits Start Today
Let’s start now that you know how form good habits. If you want to start eating better instead of buying a cinnamon roll when you smell cinnamon (your trigger) try a different routine…a healthy alternative of oatmeal with cinnamon, stevia or honey.
reward is a flood of endorphins and feeling of sustained energy which over time your body will start to crave.
But that’s still not everything. If you’ve managed to start a new habits for a month or two, and something happens to get you off track, there’s a final key ingredient: Belief: for a habit to stay changed, people must believe that change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group, say in a program like Weight Watchers. Once people learn how to believe in something, that skill starts spilling over to other parts of their lives until they start believing they can change. Belief is the ingredient that makes a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior.”
Groups create accountability and belief—key ingredients in helping us stick with new habits.
If there is a habit you are wanting to change or a good habit you want to add to your routine, you don’t have to completely change you’re existing habits. Use the same kinds of triggers and rewards, get the support of a group and have a strong belief it can be done.
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