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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 September 18, 2020

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

    Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

    1. Exercise Daily

    It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

    If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

    Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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    If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

    2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

    Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

    One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

    This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

    3. Acknowledge Your Limits

    Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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    Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

    Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

    4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

    Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

    The basic nutritional advice includes:

    • Eat unprocessed foods
    • Eat more veggies
    • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
    • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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    Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

      5. Watch Out for Travel

      Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

      This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

      If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

      6. Start Slow

      Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

      If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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      7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

      Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

      My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

      If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

      I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

      Final Thoughts

      Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

      Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

      More Tips on Getting in Shape

      Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

      Reference

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