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Habit Hack: The Science Behind How A Habit Is Formed

Habit Hack: The Science Behind How A Habit Is Formed

“Starting next month, I will run three times a week”

“After Christmas, I will only eat ice cream once a week maximum”

How many of you have tried to start a new habit and failed?

Forming a new habit is not an easy task, yet we all know that in order to improve ourselves, creating a new habit (or breaking a bad one) is crucial and unavoidable.

As people who love to learn new ways to “hack” our lives, i believe that we need to break down the mechanic of how a habit is created in order to successfully create a new habit.

Charles Duhigg (a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter) wrote a very good book that breaks down the mechanics of habit creation, it is titled “The Power of Habit” (Published in 2012). You can see his work here: http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/

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Power Of Habit

    He argues that habit creation involves three components:

    1. Cue
    2. Routine
    3. Reward

    The cue is the trigger behind the behavior. For example, when you receive an email in your phone, your phone make a sound and the light is blinking. That is the cue.

    What do you do next? You get anxious on who might send you an email, and what is the email about. Then you open your phone to check your email (that’s the routine!).

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    The reward is, you get a feeling of relief / satisfaction (and no more anxiety), because you are no longer curious who send the email and what is the email about.

    How do you break your bad habit then? There are two ways to break and improve your bad habit:

    A. Turn Off The Cue

    Using the example above, you turn off the notification on your phone, or maybe you just put your phone away. Without the presence of the phone, there is no cue that sets your bad habit of checking emails too often. Hence, you can focus on more important task and be more productive.

    On the other way round, you can also irreversibly use the cue as a way to forge positive habit change. For example, you have decided that you want to go the gym more often. Instead of relying on your willpower to go to the gym, you can sleep in your workout clothes and also put your running shoes beside your bed, so when you wake up the next day and found it, you will automatically think of the gym, and hence go there more often.

    As you can see, most of the times, the decision to do something has been decided way back before the action actually takes place. In this case, the decision whether to go to the gym or not, is not decided on the morning when you just wake up (and most probably still feel sleepy), but it has been decided the day before that, when you put your running shoes as a cue beside your bed.

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    B. Change The Routine

    But what if the cue is something that is unavoidable (or unchangeable), you ask? Let’s see this example:

    A client of mine (let’s call him Obamma) is your typical office worker. Like most of us, he is in a job that he does not really love. His job consists of many repetitive stuffs that make him bored.

    He has this bad habit every day around 2.30 pm to go to cafeteria to eat cookie. He knows this is a bad habit and yet he is still doing it day after day.

    After working with me and doing this exercise, here’s what he found:

    – What’s the CUE and why are you doing that habit? At first he thought that he is craving sweet stuffs (he said that he has a “sweet tooth”), but after doing a deeper thinking, he finally realize that the real cue is BOREDOM. He is bored and crave mental / physical activity.
    – What’s the ROUTINE? Go to cafeteria and eat cookie.
    – What’s the REWARD? His craving of physical activity is fulfilled, he is not bored anymore.

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    He knows that it is pretty difficult to turn off the cue, so instead he change his routine. Now instead of going to cafeteria to eat the cookie, he can:

    – Go to water cooler and drink water
    – Go have a quick chat with coworker
    – Go to toilet and wash his face

    After doing the exercise with me, he has been able to break his bad habit. Now he never goes to the cafeteria to eat cookies anymore.

    A study by Psychol Health Med that was published on August 16, 2011 also finds that habitual behaviors that are elicited automatically are more likely to be maintained. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21749245). In other words, you should not rely on willpower to maintain habits, but you should create automatic systems instead. Hence it is very important for you to also do these exercises, find out reasons behind why you do certain habits, and try to fix it.

    Now, it is all about YOU. What good habits do you want to start? How about the bad ones which you want to break?

    Start applying the technique to improve your life NOW. If you have any question, you can leave a comment here or you can email me HERE: youwillgetresults@gmail.com

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    Last Updated on June 26, 2019

    I Hate My Life: 10 Things You Can Do Now to Stop Hating Life

    I Hate My Life: 10 Things You Can Do Now to Stop Hating Life

    Hating life is a bit of a misnomer it seems: in the media, in education, in every aspect of our lives, we’re shown visions of a perfect world, one where everyone is happy and life is a decades-long dream. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

    Life can and is hard and tough and painful at times. I have first-hand experience of this: at this time years ago, I was a recent university graduate, unemployed and aimless. All of this was having a knock-on effect on my social and mental wellbeing—I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t seeing my friends as often. I was snappy to family members and I could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning…

    That doesn’t mean it can’t change.

    Life goes through ebbs and flows all the time and the key to getting through it all without cutting off your social circle and eating your local grocery store out of Ben & Jerry’s, is to cultivate some techniques and methods of going through life with some stability and grace. It’s not a guarantee against life’s hardships but, take the steps you want to use and you won’t hate life.

    If you want to stop hating your life and start falling in love with it, take these steps:

    1. Get Plenty of Sleep

    Seriously, you’re obviously going to be grouchy and more inclined towards the more miserable side, if you’re not getting your recommended seven or more hours of sleep a night.

    Start checking in how much you sleep and then start making steps to go to bed earlier and sleep for longer. It might cure every problem but at least you’ll be well-rested and less likely to nap throughout the day. If you having trouble getting to sleep, go and

    2. Eat Healthily

    I have had a real issue with eating healthily for years and it wasn’t until I was hospitalised a few years ago (for a condition unrelated to my eating for the sake of disclosure), that I really started to look at what I ate and how I viewed my body.

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    I’m absolutely an advocate of body positivity and loving your body at any size and while I haven’t lost any huge amount of weight, eating a hell of a lot healthier improved my mood and made me feel better.

    In short, it’s absolutely okay to have a pizza and a soda as a treat, but just have something healthier tomorrow.

    3. Write It All Down

    Sometimes the best thing you can do is let it all out. Keeping things that are making you hate life all bottled up is neither helpful to getting out of that cycle nor healthy for your overall wellbeing.

    Grab yourself a notebook, a journal, a diary, a bit of paper, whatever, and just start writing down how you feel. As soon as you’ve done that, start thinking about what you could do in theory to stop this from happening or to stop you from feeling like this.

    4. Get Some Fresh Air

    It’s underrated and we all take it for granted, but really, getting out of your home and going for a walk can be really beneficial. It gets you outside in the (hopefully) sunshine and getting to see the whole of life as you walk around can be really grounding and calming.

    Believe me, if you’re stuck inside mulling over on the bad things of your life, grab a pair of sneakers and go for a walk. Plus, it’s free. Can’t say better than that, can you?

    5. Get Some Exercise

    This is practically a Part II of the previous step, but as someone who used to look at the gym as something people did when they were feeling particularly masochistic, I can actually say I enjoy it now.

    You don’t even have to subscribe to a fancy gym—go for a run around the block with your headphones in or lift some heavy boxes to build up muscle tone.

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    Bonus: Doing all that heavy lifting of boxes or incorporating exercise into chores will make your house cleaner and look even more awesome, as well as making you look and feel better.

    6. Treat Yourself

    Hating your life can be exhausting, and I mean that literally. It drains the energy from you until all you want to do is lie in bed with a pint of ice cream and the last five seasons of a TV show on Netflix.

    Therefore, a good thing to keep your spirits up can be to treat yourself.

    Life is too short, after all, to deny yourself some treats. Go see that movie that looks awesome in the cinema, grab a gelato with a friend, paint your nails, whatever makes you happy, do it. You deserve it.

    Here’re more ideas to inspire you: 30 Ways To Treat Yourself No Matter What

    7. Cut out Those Negative Triggers

    Chances are that if you hate life, something is setting off those triggers in your head. Until you’re able to deal with them without turning all misanthropic, the best thing might be just to get rid of all of those negative triggers.

    If you’re suffering from what AllGroanUp refer to as “Obsessive Comparison Disorder” (i.e. obsessively checking out the lifestyles of all your “successful” friends), then stop using Facebook and Twitter as much.

    Social media can be a fantastic way to connect, but it can be also be a toxic environment for neuroses and comparisons to breed.

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    Trust me, I know. If it sets you off, cut it out.

    8. Dance

    Yes you can dance. No, really, you can. It doesn’t matter if you’re not some breakdancing dynamo or ballroom extraordinaire, everyone can dance. It’s programmed into the human race, the ultimate expression of emotion.

    Dance like no one’s watching, dance like you don’t care. Tap your feet, sway your hips, go as mad or as wild as you want to to your favourite songs. Nothing quite shakes the cobwebs off than losing yourself in rhythm and dance to a song you love.

    9. Get Organized

    A great way to start moving forward and looking at what you can change in your life to make it better, is to get organized.

    Spend a weekend going through your home and clearing the unnecessary stuff out of it. Get rid of the stuff you don’t need or don’t want anymore and start to give everything a space.

    It doesn’t have to look like it’s stepped off the pages of Good Housekeeping, but clearing a lot of space and making sure that your home has a bit of harmony can do wonders for your mental wellbeing.

    10. Pay It Forward

    Life is a mystery and it can be a minefield to get through. Sometimes you stumble, sometimes you fall. The important part is to pick yourself back up and keep walking forward.

    Paying it forward is simply helping others. Charity is something that is often thrown around as an accessory to human behavior—how many celebrities have you read about who have done something heinous, but are defended by the phrase “but [they] do charity work”?

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    Go volunteer! If you think you’re at breaking point, go help other people.

    People in the world out there will be going through the same things that you are going through; and while you might not run into someone who’s going through the exact same circumstances, you will be helping people who need help.

    Helping out a soup kitchen, or at a church bake sale, or at a homeless shelter or wherever needs help, can make a huge difference to the lives of those individuals involved. And believe me, it’ll do a hell of a lot for your state of mind .

    A great idol of mine, Audrey Hepburn, once stated that we have two hands: one for helping ourselves, and one for helping others. That’s a fantastic sentiment and one I think will help people who hate their live.

    If you go and help other people, you’re having such a positive ripple effect on the world that some of it will come back to you one way or another, and it will get better.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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