Our brains are the most amazing organ. The brain organizes and integrates an incredible amount of data quickly while allowing us to operate on “auto-pilot” for much of our day. Our brains create systems and pathways that are so well worn that we can do routine tasks without shifting our focus to them.
How can we harness the strength of this amazing gift to help us create the life we want? By understanding how to intentionally form our habits
So… what is a habit?
Habits are behaviors we perform on a regular basis where some component of the behavior is considered “automatic.” Forming new habits just requires practice.
Habits are pathways in the brain that have formed through repetition. The repetitive pattern starts with a cue from the environment which triggers a behavioral response and is reinforced with a reward. The classic example was the experiment with Pavlov’s dogs where the dogs salivated (behavior) in response to the bell (cue).
In order to create a new, healthy habit—or even to break a bad habit—you’ll want to be as intentional as possible with all three parts: cue, behavior, reward. You can manipulate your environment to introduce cues that you can then intentionally start to associate with a desired behavior and reinforce it all with a reward.
Changing your life habits can be simpler than you may think. With a few tricks, you can gain or lose any habits you’d like.
Understanding these tips will help you stick to healthy habits and break bad ones as you work toward your health and wellness goals in 2023.
FOCUS ON THE CUE
In order to create new habits, we need to focus on the cue, NOT the behavior.
Let’s say you want to start practicing yoga on a regular basis. Instead of focusing on doing yoga, try focusing on developing the routine around initiating the yoga.
An easy way to do this is to choose a cue that already occurs regularly in your daily life, such as drinking morning coffee. During the early stages of developing your yoga habit, focus your effort on prepping your yoga space while you brew the coffee. Then go fill up your cup and go straight to the location in your home you have chosen to do yoga.
Develop the habit of prepping to do yoga every morning, which makes it more likely that you’ll actually do it. Do not focus on the behavior… you can start with 5 minutes daily of yoga and gradually build up to your targeted time.
After a while, you’ll start to notice that when you get up to get coffee (environmental cue), it takes little to no effort to set up your space and practice yoga (habitual response).
You’ll even start to look forward to it, and maybe even feel like something in your life is off when you do not practice yoga…. And that’s the power of habit!
REINFORCE WITH THE “REWARD”
Using the yoga example, you might get done and treat yourself to a (healthy) snack to go with your coffee. Whatever you do, be sure to incorporate a healthy reward into your habit routine.
The more often the cue, behavior, and reward occur in close time and proximity to one another, the stronger a habit becomes.
HEALTHY HABITS TO START RIGHT NOW
All habits are not created equal. Some habits can have positive impacts across multiple areas of our lives. The most impactful habits are ones that point you toward regular exercise, eating well, and getting good sleep. These three are my top picks for unlocking a healthier life starting today.
HABITS VS GOALS – Don’t confuse habits with goals.
Goals are great, but putting habits in place that move you toward your goals are key. The goal is the destination and the habit is the journey.
You have the tips you need to build healthy habits and break bad ones. Start the process today and build a better life for yourself…. one habit at a time. Interested in learning more about how you can use habits and achieve your health and wellness goals? Set up a FREE “Meet and Greet” to speak with Dr Diaz today. Space is limited.