Form a Habit Alliance

new habitsShort-term goals will yield short-term success. However, sometimes you need to make lifestyle changes to stay the way you desire, whether it be weight loss, organization, or quitting smoking. Diets, or other short-term solutions do not work. Traci Mann of the University of Minnesota has showed in her book Secrets from the Eating Lab that dieting over the long term is impossible. Instead of depriving yourself, change your habits. This may sound like a daunting task, but with the help of leading research, you’ll be able to transform yourself for good, helping you to achieve happiness and balance.

One key source to help you learn about habit-forming is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. This New York Times best-seller has created a lot of attention from individuals nationwide, especially individuals with habits they wish to kick. He writes about such a complex concept as habits in a simple way that anyone can understand and learn from. Duhigg explains in his book the cylindrical nature of habits. There is the cue, which is what sparks your habit. This could be time, hunger, boredom, people, or certain situations. This is followed by the routine, which is the habit itself. Lastly, there is the reward, or what you gain from that particular habit. Then, this whole process starts over again and again, unless you step in and make changes.

If you desire to get rid of an undesirable routine, you start with what your cue is. What is triggering you to do whatever habit you are unhappy with? I have a particularly nagging sweet tooth, especially when it comes to cookies. If I see cookies, I want to eat them. Leaving cookies on the counter is a good way for me to eat them. Just the simple act of putting them in a cabinet (or not buying them at all) really helps me to avoid sugar cravings. Out of sight, out of mind.

Next, and most importantly, you need to figure out what the reward is. It would be easy to say my reward for eating a cookie is eating the cookie itself. However, I’ve found it’s more complicated than that. When cookies are left out, I have a harder time resisting them when I feel stressed. Eating sugary and fattening foods helps to bring relief; thus, the fitting name of comfort foods. Taking some time to be reflective, I have come to the conclusion that there are much healthier ways for me to relieve stress, such as going for a jog, doing yoga, or petting my dog. Instead of reaching for a sweet, I know I have other routines that I can complete to reach the same reward: stress relief. Now, this doesn’t mean I seamlessly avoid sweets, but it means I have the opportunity to be more mindful in my choices instead of mindlessly being trapped in my habits.

With some time to be reflective, step back, look at your habits closely, and figure out your cue and reward. By changing your routine to meet your reward in a better way, you can break your unwanted habit, and thus change yourself for good.

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