Knowing the anatomy of a habit can help to break old habits and also create new ones.
Every habit has 3 phases, sometimes known as the habit loop.
- The 1st element is the cue or condition. The internal or external factors that trigger your habit and observing the context in which it happens is vital in breaking or creating habits.
- The 2nd phase is the behaviour itself – the things you routinely do.
- The 3rd component is the reward – the pay off you get as a result of the habit (which reinforces the behaviour). It is usually a feeling or a chemical reward in the brain.
So to break a habit, notice the cues and see if you can remove or reduce them (perhaps throw the chocolate biscuits away). Then look at the reward and see if there is another more healthy behaviour that gives you the same feeling, or the same reward?
To create a new habit, think about cues or conditions that make it easy to perform the desired action.
For example, I set out my mat and pillow and play the same music every time to prepare my body and mind for a mediation. Also, build-up gradually – adding 5 seconds a day for 30 days becomes 2.5 minutes.
Then choose a reward that induces a good feeling – a piece of dark chocolate after exercise is rewarding until the habit becomes a reward in itself.