Are you aware of your own ‘bad habits’? Could you name them? Oh my goodness I can almost hear you say – what do you want me to put first?! LOL – stress eating, running late, procrastination (see my previous blog on this!), drinking, smoking, or too much Netflix? What about failure to do the ‘good’ things more regularly – like meditation, or going to the Gym? I can personally confess to some stress eating, procrastination, or running late (though since I have to catch trains this has improved)! So what are your bad habits? And do you really want to change these, or have you come to some accommodation with them? After all, some habits are really destructive (like violence), or way too much stress eating, or out of control drinking – while others are simply a bit annoying (like running late and getting stressed)! So HOW can we deal with these if we really want to?
When I truly pondered this topic I realised 3 things, my friends –
- Do I really recognise what bad habits I actually have, or have they been with me for so long I just accept these as being part of my personality?
- And do I really want to get on top of these? Or at least those that negatively impact my life the most? In other words, how much motivation is there?
- And given I do – how on earth do I go about achieving this? Where do I start?
Great question! As Julie Andrews sang in ‘Sound of Music’ – let’s start at the very beginning!
From my research and experience, there are 3 ‘R’s that can help us to understand – and change bad habits.
REMINDER. ROUTINE. REWARD
- Reminder: This is a trigger or cue, which is often unconscious, but which can result in the behaviour that follows…. And it can be an ‘innocent’ habit. For example, when you come home from work, do you automatically kick off your shoes, and flop on the couch? (Understandable)! LOL! But what happens next?
- Routine: Do you then turn on the telly, get up automatically and get a glass of something to relax with (a drink or a cuppa), plus a nibble of something, and tell yourself you only need time to chill out for a few minutes?
- Reward: You feel relaxed and in your comfort zone! If you do something that causes enjoyment or relieves stress, the pleasurable release of dopamine in your brain can make you want to do it again! (Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. Your body makes it and your nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells, and Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure).
- But you could still be there an hour later, with a few more peanuts or biscuits under your belt?! This has now become part of your routine, for which you are rewarded!
And it starts with a trigger….
So to understand what might be happening to you – have a look at your ‘bad habits’ and decide which of these you would like to get on top of initially?
To give you an idea of how this might work – in the above example, if this ‘habit’ when you come home has led to an increase in weight, less exercise, less time to do the other things you would really like to do (like go for a walk/play with the dog/meditate or get the dinner going early while the kids are doing their homework) – how do you change this?
- Become MINDFUL first of all of the routine you may have got yourself into – and therefore what might be triggering this?
- And simply change the routine. But HOW?
- Initially, you can change your space…. As crazy as this might sound, what would happen if you came in the back door instead if that’s possible? You might have to go past your bedroom so you could kick off your shoes there, and have your runners already in place waiting for you to slip into! That would change your routine.
- Or you could come in the front door but have your runners already in place beside the couch, which would remind you that you had already decided to break the routine of stopping and flopping only, by changing into your runners. You can decide to go out for that walk or run immediately, or you can still get a glass or cup of something – but the routine has now changed so you are more likely to go out for that walk or run when you’ve finished your snack!
- To encourage you to start this changed way of thinking and acting, start visualising what you are going to do when you come home each afternoon. What routine do you really want to change to?
- And finally, look at the changed behaviour and work out what your reward would be? Feeling better about yourself? Better health? Getting on top of something you thought you couldn’t change? Feeling less stressed?
Now it’s YOUR turn – look at that habit you would love to change in the light of the above three ‘Rs and the consequences…. How can you pleasantly surprise yourself by getting on top of a bad habit so much more easily than you thought possible by looking at the Reminder Trigger, the Routine that has followed, and the Reward that you get. How will you reward yourself differently?
And let me know how this works for you?