Let’s spend some time this week talking about habits. In forming any habit, good or bad these 3 things are in play. There is
- Cue: which is something that triggers a specific action.
- Action: is the routine.
- Reward: is the satisfaction or completion of the routine, or celebration/acknowledgement while forming the habit.
Using the example of brushing our teeth as a habit, the cue starts with your mom or dad telling you to brush your teeth, the routine is that you do brush your teeth, the reward is mom or dad celebrate and show excitement that your teeth are clean. Over time the cue is no longer having to be told to brush your teeth, but something else in your routine like washing your face or putting on your pj’s that makes brushing your teeth automatic. Once the habit itself is formed the reward is less critical.
But in forming a habit, reward is very important and often missed. Even if it is cheesy or simply an acknowledgement of how well you have done in your quest to form a habit. To give you an example of this, let’s use the very common elimination of “treats”. If you have been successful in eliminating treats for the last 3 days (maybe by replacing treats with a healthy snack) give yourself a high five, do a little dance, or smile and say “way to go”.
On the flip side you also want give yourself some grace if you do have a treat or there are some bumps in the road in trying to form good habits. This is life! And there will be ups and downs.
It is always easiest to form a habit if you attach the habit you are trying to achieve to something you already do. For example, if you are wanting to increase you water intake you can attach that to your habit of eating and drink water before each meal and snack. Or maybe if you wanting to move more, instead of using your lunch break to eat and check social media, maybe you eat your lunch then go for a walk and listen to a podcast.
Its a similar process when you are trying to break a habit. You want to be aware of the cues that stimulate the behavior you want to change, then invoke a new routine and the reward you want. Let’s say your habit is to snack after dinner when you sit down to watch tv. If you notice that you feel the need to snack when you sit down to watch tv, then watching tv may be your body’s cue for snacking. So instead of watching tv try doing something else even for a short while that might disrupt the usual routine. You could go for a short walk, do a few exercises, some household tasks etc. The reward being that you didn’t snack, you did something good for your health, or you got what you needed done around the house 🙂
-PVA Trainer Becky