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How To Build Good Habits

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What Exactly Is a Habit?

Habits play a significant role in our everyday lives. Habits are specific habitual behaviors we tend to follow routinely, which often happen subconsciously. Sometimes that’s a good thing, as when we brush our teeth at night. Sometimes it’s not so good, as when we start stress-eating. Either way, though, a habit is something that happens with little thought or effort on your part – which is itself both a blessing and a curse. Build good habits, and you will likely see success in all of these areas. Keep going with bad ones, and you’re likelier to struggle. If you want to make smarter choices about your life, health, finances, and relationships, the best thing you can do is take a good hard look at your routine behaviors.

The good news is there are ways to reduce unhealthy habits and increase healthy ones, and they’re not that hard.

The breakdown of every habit follows these three stages. It always manifests in the same order, cue, routine, and reward. Habit Loop with the words Cue, Routine and Reward demonstrating a cycle

  • Cue: This triggers habitual behavior, which can show in many forms, such as location, people, emotional state, and time. For example, workplace, a stressful situation, a particular person you’re around.
  • Routine: This is the habit or repetitive behavior you perform. These mainly happen subconsciously, although you can make a conscious choice to start a habit at the start.
  • Reward: This refers to the reward you get from the habitual behavior. The reward is the end goal. For example, feeling healthier is the reward of going to the gym. There are also less beneficial rewards that can provide temporary stress relief, like a chocolate bar (the reward) after a stressful day (the cue).

How to build good habits

  1. Replace a bad habit with a healthy habit. For instance, “I want to quit smoking and start exercising.” You can substitute ten pushups for a cigarette. It’s a great way to get rid of a habit you don’t like and start a healthy habit.
  1. Discover the root. There could be a reason you are performing this bad habit, maybe a learned behavior from others, perhaps a particular place that triggers your habit, or even an emotion. You could be stress eating anytime you feel overwhelmed.
  1. Identify a goal you want to achieve.If you have a goal to be healthier, you can build a habit that will get you to that goal. This habit will be easier to maintain as long as you see progress towards your goal.

Any habit that you start will be a conscious choice for the first few times, and then as you repeat this habit, it will become subconscious. The initial change of integrating the new habit into your routine is the hardest part.

Ideas for some good habits to start

Men and women practicing healthy habits like exercising, eating healthy, getting a good nights sleep and drinking water

  • Start reading
  • Learn a new thing every day
  • Eat something healthy
  • Journal
  • Waking up at a set time
  • Going to bed at a set time
  • Go for a walk
  • Meditate
  • Tidy up your room

Different ways to break unhealthy habits

  1. Identify your cues. When you have a habit you want to break out of, think of why you perform that habitual behavior. Could it be triggered by a person? Could it be stress-related? Or could it be whenever you’re bored? Take a good look into why so that next time it arises, you’ll understand what it is that you genuinely need.
  1. What reward are you getting from the habit? Thinking about what you get from the reward can help you understand that you’re not gaining anything from it long-term when you perform this unhealthy habit. It only relieves the cravings short term. If you want to stop smoking, you can look at how this affects your health in the long term.
  1. Be prepared. Supposedly say that you want to stop eating chocolate bars. You could have a healthy snack already prepared for when that moment comes up. If you have that healthy option ready for the moment, you’ll be more likely to be consistent, and it also takes the thinking out of it.

Ideas for bad habits to stop

  • Checking your phone or other devices too often
  • Stress eating
  • Staying up late to watch a movie
  • Nail-biting
  • Smoking
  • Overspending
  • Hitting snooze in the morning
  • Drinking energy drinks

How accountability can help

You can let someone close to you know that you are giving up an unhealthy habit. Doing so will make you responsible for your behavior. They will be able to offer support in times when you feel like you might slip up. Or when you’re at work, and someone brings cake to work, a close colleague who knows you are giving up bad foods could offer you support. Maybe they have some personal experience to share with you and give you advice.

Understand that these things take time

If you have a lot of good habits you’d like to start and bad ones you want to stop, that’s fine, but it’s challenging to do it all at once. It’s a good idea to change one thing at a time. Like any other beneficial change in life, new habits need to start slowly. The better bet is to identify what is most important to you and build from there. Once you’ve successfully added or got rid of an unhealthy habit, you will feel a lot more confident in tackling the next habit.

Keep in mind that you will slip up, you can change a habit without the all-or-nothing mindset, and you should start small. Moreover, be kind to yourself. If you’re not, you’ll end up creating more stress and coping with the use of unhealthy habits, and learning how to change a habit requires the right mindset. Soon enough, you’ll get there!

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