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Published on March 12, 2020

Want To Change A Habit Permanently? Do These 7 Things

Want To Change A Habit Permanently? Do These 7 Things

It takes commitment to achieve anything significant in life. You are unstoppable when you show a serious commitment to achieving your goals, but some habits have the ability to hinder commitment in serious ways. However, positive habits can do just the opposite and should be developed as much as possible.

Your habits are the fuel for peak performance. They also determine the state of your inner peace and overall prosperity. Getting rid of negative habits and developing new, positive ones will decrease your stress, increase productivity, and help you lead a healthier, more successful life.

How to Change a Habit Permanently

In order to change a habit permanently, you must focus on the process needed to achieve the desired results. If you focus on this process and the steps shared below, you can break bad habits, start positive ones, and achieve your goals.

1. Pinpoint Habits You Want to Change

It is not enough to have some bad behaviors. You must also understand the process and what it takes to change those habits permanently. No wonder Robert Taibbi, a certified clinical social worker, affirms that:

“You need to prime the habit-breaking process by thinking in terms of specific, doable behaviors —like not dumping your shoes in the living room but putting them in your closet…Drill down on the concrete.”[1]

Specificity is key here. Identifying specific habits instead of general behaviors will help you work more quickly toward change, allowing you to hit your target instead of wasting time.

2. Pay a Fine for Every Bad Habit

Fines can add up, and they can hurt. Paying $5 for a pack of cigarettes may not immediately feel like a fine, but changing your mindset can help you view it as a punishment to spend that money if you make a plan to put it toward something else.

Add up those fines and see what they would cost over a lifetime.[2] This can help you begin to visualize all of the other things you can do with that money.

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Paying a self-imposed fine is one of the ways you can make bad habits painful. Perhaps, if you are willing to pay a monthly fee of $25 for a credit card, you can similarly fine yourself $10 to $15 at home for habits you fail to break. You can also request that an accountability partner charges you when you slip up.

3. Find Your Triggers

Most of the time, bad habits are fueled by stress and boredom. Locating the root cause can help you to change a habit or replace a bad one with something good.[3]

For example, if you have the habit of eating junk food when you are stressed, learn to recognize when your stress is starting to trigger that habit. Then, try to replace it with a positive habit such as practicing meditation, taking a walk, or moving through a couple of yoga poses.

4. Start by Making Tiny Changes

It takes time as well as a concerted effort to form new habits. It certainly is not a simple affair. You should not expect to break a bad habit overnight. You need to exercise patience and focus on taking small, clear steps.

For instance, you can cut down on your sugar intake by using low-fat milk instead of creamer while making your coffee. A dramatic adjustment, such as completely avoiding sugar may not work, but small and meaningful steps will yield results.

5. Practice Mindfulness

Meditation or mindful practice creates an awareness of what is happening and why. It is about seeing the impact of pursuing negative habits.

Habits are formed in the prefrontal cortex of your brain. This small region is in charge of which habit is switched on at a particular point in time. Neuroscientists at MIT discovered that while habits may have a deeper root in the brain, the planning center of the brain has what it takes to shut those habits off.[4]

Mindfulness practice can activate the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for planning, decision-making, and concentration. It can also shrink the right amygdala responsible for fear, as well as negative emotions. It is like practicing a skill, such as playing the piano. The more you play, the better you become.

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According to Judson Brewer in his Ted Talk,[5] your brain follows a routine — trigger, behavior, and reward.”

For example, smoking may help you get over an incident, you continue to engage in the behavior because it helps relieve stress, but your body receives the reward of pleasure and relief.

Brewer discovered that being curious and aware helped some of his study participants to realize that smoking tastes and smells gross. The prefrontal cortex understands the implication of bad habits, but this region goes offline when you are tense.

With mindfulness, you can activate this region to help you identify trigges, assess bad habits, and embrace good ones.

6. Change Your Environment

You cannot change a habit permanently by staying in an environment that nurtures the habit.

Habits include three parts:

A cue prompts your brain to follow a routine. This is followed by the actual performance and the reward that comes from going through the routine.

If you walk down the street and spot a cigarette shop (cue), you then walk over there to buy a pack. You start smoking it (routine), and immediately you derive the short-term pleasurable feeling (reward).

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If you want to stop smoking, you will need to stop walking down that street. Once you stop experiencing the cue by changing your environment, you can empower yourself to start forming new, beneficial habits.

7. Be Patient With Yourself

Nothing significant happens overnight, and that includes changing a habit. Thus, don’t be upset when it is taking a while to change a habit. Your brain needs more time to develop new connections and produce new behaviors.

Wait for the adjustment process to run the full cycle, and never give up while waiting to change those habits.

8. Practice Mental Scripting

You can change a habit by rewriting your mental scripts. Mental scripts can be defined as some set of behaviors or reactions to specific situations. It takes a concerted effort to change a habit.

Old scripts can include your past failures. They are established via continuous reinforcement or a repeated encounter. The possession of scripts does not validate that they are real. The fact that you failed yesterday does not mean you are going to fail today.[6]

How can you rewrite your scripts?
  1. Identify the old scripts. Look into your past and find the events and encounters that have informed your current perspective.
  2. Write down what script you want to replace. If you’re going to rewrite a script, you need to have the original scripts.
  3. Break down the script into chunks and tackle the first followed by the next.
  4. Establish a plan and the steps to achieve the plan.
  5. Act the script. Don’t waste time until you have a perfect plan; start from somewhere.

How Long Does It Take to Change a Habit?

There is no exact number to internalize a habit or to break bad habits. Several researchers have recommended several techniques and time frames for forming new habits.

The 21-Day Rule

This was popularized by the early work of Maxwell Maltz. Dr. Maltx was a plastic surgeon who sought to understand how people perceive themselves. He was also fascinated by the amount of time it took a patient to adjust after surgery.[7]

From his findings, he discovered an average individual would spend 21 days adjusting. Based on this information, several self-help experts have bought into the idea of changing habits within 21 days.

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Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at UCL, in collaboration with her team, also figured out how long it takes to change a habit.

According to their study, over 96 individuals were examined over 12 weeks. Each individual picked a new habit. Over the following 12 weeks, they reported on whether they exhibited the habit.

Some individuals picked some simple habits like drinking water with lunch. Others went for more tedious activities, such as running for 15 minutes in the evening.

In the end, the team discovered it was automatic for participants to activate new habits with a time frame. The truth is you will need between two to eight months to form new habits or break old ones according to Lally’s study.[8]

Conclusion

It takes commitment and consistency to follow through when you are trying to change a habit. Remember to focus more on the process than on the result. In this way, you can take small steps, enjoy the journey, and look forward to what waits for you at the end.

More Tips on Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Natalia Figueredo via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 22, 2020

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

You have probably heard the success stories about people who wake up early. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle all talk about the positive impact of waking up early on their lives.

Even though many assign a portion of their success to waking up early, many find it difficult to make the switch. While most people know what needs to happen to change their life, they find then difficult to implement consistently. To understand how to wake up early, you need to tap into the wisdom of those already doing it.

Here are the 6 things early risers do:

1. Stop Procrastinating

The first thing you need to do when you want to learn how to wake up early is to go to sleep earlier. Stop procrastinating. You will find it much easier to wake up when you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Set a bedtime that allows you to get 8-hours of sleep and hold yourself accountable.

The problem most of you will have at first is how tired you will feel. If you are someone who goes to sleep after midnight, waking up by 6 a.m. will not be easy. The reason you need to push through that initial difficulty is that you are going to be very tired at the end of the day. Realistically, you probably would fall asleep at your desk or doze off on your lunch break. Either way, waking up early no matter how you feel will motivate you to go sleep at the proper time that night.

Think of it as someone who procrastinated until the night before their project was due. Having done this myself, you do what you need to do to complete the project, whether that means working all night or cutting some corners because you don’t have time to triple-check your work.

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After you turn in your project, you feel both exhaustion and jubilation. After you make it through the workday and crash at home, you promise yourself you’ll never wait until the last minute again. This same feeling will happen when you force yourself to wake up early no matter what time you went to sleep. You are going to promise yourself you will go to bed at the right time.

Most people don’t go to bed when they should because they know they will ultimately make it up in the morning.

2. Pace Yourself

If you want to start waking up a couple of hours earlier each day, you may not be able to make that change all at once. It stands to reason the more drastic the shift, the more difficult it will be.

So, instead of trying to adjust your sleep pattern by several hours, start in 15-minute or 30-minute intervals.[1] If you wake up 30 minutes earlier each week, you will be a morning person by the end of the month. This may feel like you are drawing out your goal but in reality, you are accomplishing it much quicker than most. Most people who are naturally night owls find it difficult to completely change their sleep habits overnight.

Think of it as someone who is trying to quit drinking coffee. Outside of the fact you may enjoy the taste of coffee, your body is used to operating with a certain amount of caffeine and sugar. Some will be able to quit overnight and their body will adjust accordingly. And if you are one of those people, then do what works for you.

However, if you were to take an incremental approach, then you may first start drinking your coffee black. Then, you could switch to decaf before slowly lowering the amount of coffee you drink each day. As you can see, this approach will help minimize the feeling of withdrawal while getting the results you want.

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3. Watch Your Lighting

Light reduces your body’s production of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone. In practical terms, your body naturally wants to be awake when the sun is up and go to sleep when the sun is down. This is called your circadian rhythm.

In the technology-driven world we currently live in, you likely look at a screen or two before bed. Studies show television and phone screens trick your body into thinking the sun is up. As a result, your body starts producing less melatonin. To help you fall asleep, you should stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed.

This can also mean that if you want to wake up before the sun, looking at your screen when you wake up can help you to stay awake.

Peter Balyta, the President of Education Technology for Texas Instruments says he wakes up at 5:20 a.m. and scans his emails before starting his day. This is also true for M.I.T. president L. Rafael Rief. He wakes up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and checks his phone for anything urgent.[2]

4. Make It Worth Your Time

Have you ever woken up early but went back to sleep because you didn’t have a reason to stay up? To put it another way, have you ever fallen asleep because you didn’t have anything better to do?

If you want to be excited about going to sleep and waking up early, then you need to give yourself a reason to be excited. You can accomplish this by listing the three things you want to accomplish the next morning. Notice I said “want” and not “need” to accomplish. You don’t want to be dragging yourself into the next morning kicking and screaming.

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Your list should not only include what you want to accomplish but also why you want to accomplish it. If you want to take it a step further, list the consequences of not waking up early.

People who have figured out how to wake up early are shown to be more successful, persistent, and proactive in their life. They tend to be happier and handle stress better. It is also shown that people who wake up early procrastinate less.[3] If you find any of these benefits something you want to add in your life, then waking up early is shown to help.

5. Avoid Binging

There is a difference between sleeping and getting a good night’s sleep. Sure, you can drink alcohol and fall asleep, but you will not be getting quality rest. You will wake up feeling as though you slept for only a couple hours.

It is best to stop drinking at least 4 hours before bedtime. Binge drinking is known to impact your sleep-inducing melatonin hormone levels for up to a week. The same holds true with eating a large meal right before bed. It is not that your body can’t process food and sleep at the same time. The main concern has more to do with the possibility of indigestion or heartburn than anything else.

If you find yourself dealing with either of these symptoms, then you may want to stop eating at least two hours before bed.

6. Get the Blood Flowing

Those who have mastered the technique of how to wake up early tend to start each morning with movement.

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Your first movement is to get out of bed. To help you get out of bed, have your alarm far enough away that you need to get up and turn it off. Before you allow yourself to contemplate going back to sleep, take a moment, and do 10 push-ups or 10 jumping jacks. Think of each exercise as you taking one step further from being able to go back to sleep.

Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning. She starts each day by exercising. Her exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and cycling.

You decide for yourself how you want to get your blood flowing. Whether you want to go on a walk, workout at the gym, or do something at home, make sure you are scheduling time to exercise.

Final Thoughts

The key to understanding how to wake up early is to recognize that it is heavily driven by the actions you take the night before. You will wake up early if you go to bed at a good time and get the proper amount of sleep.

By taking the time to prepare yourself both mentally and physically each night, you can ensure you are positioned for success the next morning. Once you have taken the proper actions the night before, make sure you use that momentum to start your day, on time.

The goal is to make the actions you want to take as easy as possible. The key to changing your life is to discover a way to have the wind at your back, going in the direction you want.

More Tips on How to Wake up Early

Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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