Almost everything we do in life is based around habits these are just a few examples: brushing your teeth, whether or not you eat breakfast, driving to work, snacking, the time you go to bed and of course there are many more.
Ask yourself, do you eat breakfast at a certain time each day because you are hungry? because the clock says 6:45am? because your kids have started eating? Or because you’re dressed and that’s when your breakfast habit kicks in, all these things which prompt that habit are known as habitual cues.
Almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories
- Emotional State
- Other People
- Immediately Preceding/Proceeding an Action
The brilliant news is that all unwanted habits can be changed, the first few times you may find it difficult to change your unwanted habit but with the right approach and with more and more practice you will soon find yourself doing you NEW habit mechanically or with hardly any consciousness at all, and then it will grow into a lasting habit.
How to change those unwanted habits
Identify the routine
Identify what habit it is that you want to change, what is its frequency and what the cues are that prompt that habit.
Identify the cue that feeds the habit
Location – Does being in a specific location prompt your habit?
Time – Does your habit kick in at the same time each day?
Emotional Response – Is your habit prompted by an emotional response?
Other people – Do others actions, or does being around other people prompt your habit?
Immediately preceding/proceeding an action – Does your habit kick in immediately before or after a specific event or activity?
Experiment with changing your routine and stopping the cue
Try changing your routine to stop the cue, instead of indulging in that habit do something else i.e., go for a walk, talk to a friend, read a book, have a bath, listen to music etc. doing something else you enjoy for a short period helps you break the routine and change the habit.
Trying writing down how you feel when breaking the routine and then at the end of the month look back at what you wrote to remind yourself of how amazingly well you have done.
Experiment with rewards
Rewarding yourself for success is a great motivator to not falling back into those bad habits, it could be treating yourself to a haircut or new clothes or, going to the movies, experiment with different ideas and see what works for you.
Identify the routine: I snack on biscuits daily at work
Identify the Cue: I eat my biscuits every work day at 11.00 with a cup of tea therefore the cue is the time 11.00am and my routine is to have tea and biscuits at 11.00am each day.
Experiment with changing your routine and stopping the cue: At 11.00am instead of eating a biscuit I will try eating an apple, after a few days I found this was not effective so I experimented and tried going for a walk at 11.00am instead and found this worked.
Experiment with rewards: I put the money I would normally spend on biscuits each week in a jar and at the end of the month I treated myself to a manicure.