Healthy habits make living a healthy lifestyle so much easier and enjoyable. Create new habits, or change bad ones, and you’re ready to make room in your life for a lot more energy and fun!
Charles Duhigg, in his best-selling book, The Power of Habit (2012), describes how habits are formed, how old ones can be changed, and how new ones can be purposefully created. He cites a 2006 Duke research paper that found that more than 40% of our actions are performed out of habit. Duhigg describes habits as, “choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day.” The author describes it as a process that our brain utilizes to reduce its workload. Once we understand how habit formation works, we can pick and choose which habits to form in our minds.
Duhigg describes habits as a three-step loop that includes: CUE > ROUTINE > REWARD. First, a CUE (or trigger) signals the brain to choose an established habit and go into automatic mode. This is followed by a ROUTINE that can be played out physically, mentally, or emotionally. Lastly, a REWARD is obtained for following the routine, which reinforces the process, or habit loop, in our memory. Over time, this habit loop becomes more and more automatic and leads to the development of a CRAVING for the reward at the end. This subconscious craving becomes the driver of the habit loop.
As an example, if I want to begin a new exercise habit, I might do the following:
Cue: I see my workout clothes laid out when I wake up in the morning.
Routine: I get dressed and engage in 30 minutes of my favorite physical activity.
Reward: I experience happiness when I step on the scale or put on my favorite jeans, and I feel energized all day.
Craving: Every day I find myself desiring and seeking the sense of accomplishment and energy that the routine provides.
Habits can be purposefully formed, and they can be purposefully changed as well. To change a habit, change the response to a cue. An example might be that noontime is your cue to grab lunch. Using the cue to signal that it’s time M. J. White 4
for something different, a walk for example, can change the habit if you have a suitable reward. This reward will include feel-good endorphins that will keep you alert and energized all afternoon. Over time, the reward will become a craving and the habit will have been totally changed before you know it.
It’s easy, decide what behavior you would like to create or change. Then, create a habit loop with a cue, routine, reward, and identify what would make you crave doing it so that really sticks with you. The goal is to create lifestyle behaviors that will become effortless and will add energy to your day and quality to your life.