Habits are the building blocks of our routines and have a significant impact on our ability to adjust our behaviors for lasting change and to achieve our goals. Accordingly, understanding and cultivating effective habits is important to our health, wellness, and wellbeing.
The Habit Loop
Habits are formed and maintained through the Habit Loop, a neurological pattern that consists of three stages: cue, craving, and response. The cue triggers a craving, which drives us to engage in a specific response or behavior. By understanding and manipulating this loop, we can effectively develop new habits or break unwanted ones.
Broad Recommendations for Habit Formation
Establishing and reinforcing positive habits requires a strategic approach. To increase the probability of success, make the desired habit easy, obvious, attractive, and satisfying. Simplify the habit by breaking it down into manageable steps and removing any obstacles or friction that may hinder its execution. Enhance the visibility of and cues associated with the habit by incorporating both visual and setting specific reminders for when to perform the habit. To the extent possible, connect the habit with pleasures and rewards, to increase appeal and motivation. Also to the extent possible, implement rewards on a variable interval schedule.
Specific Recommendations for Habit Formation
More specific recommendations for successfully establishing and reinforcing positive habits include the following.
Make It Easy
Environment Simplification: Modify your environment to make the desired habit more accessible and visible. Remove unnecessary steps, complexities, or obstacles associated with the habit to reduce friction.
Two Minute Rule: Begin with a version of the desired habit that takes less than two minutes to complete, removing the barrier of time. This makes the habit easier to both start and continue.
Habit Shaping: Gradually increase the difficulty of the desired habit over time; start humble then incrementally challenge yourself. This prevents overwhelm.
Make It Obvious
Environment Design: Modify your environment to make the desired habit more accessible and visible. Rearrange your space to support the habit you want to build.
Implementation Intentions: Clearly specify when and where you will perform the desired habit. This helps solidify your commitment.
Habit Stacking: Link a desired habit to an existing one – by using the existing habit as a cue. This leverages the power of established routines to cue new habits.
Make It Attractive
Temptation Bundling: Pair a desired habit with enjoyable activity – for example, engaging in exercise (your new habit) while listening to your favorite podcast (your enjoyable activity).
Identity Base: Align your desired habit with the identity you wish to embody – for example, consistent running habits may be motivated by believing yourself a runner.
Habit Contract: Create a commitment to your desired habit with someone else. This holds you accountable and provides an external source of motivation and support.
Make It Satisfying
Habit Tracking: Monitor your progress. This creates a sense of accountability and provides a visual representation of both your commitment and achievements.
Habit Celebration: Celebrate successes along the way. Acknowledge and reward yourself for your efforts.
Habit Reevaluation: Continuously assess and adapt your desired habits. This ensures they remain aligned with your goals and priorities.
Habits shape our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and, ultimately, our lives. Refining effective habits that align with our goals is a powerful way to achieve lasting change. Should you desire additional information, recommendations, and strategies regarding habit formation, we recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.