How do you view habits? You probably view good habits in a positive light and bad habits in a negative light, meaning you think that it’s easy to maintain good habits and hard to break the bad ones. And you might think that you want to get rid of those bad habits — say, an addiction to sweets or a habit of never making deadlines at work.
But the thing is, you can’t really break those habits. They are what they are and they’ve been ingrained by a more complex process than you might be aware of. Every habit, be it negative or positive, has a couple of components. You have a cue, and that’s followed by a routine, and then finally there’s a reward. That’s not accounting for the negativity, of course, that you might feel after that cycle when it comes to bad habits. But all habits have that. So what you have to do with bad habits is reframe them.
Think of it this way. You do get a dopamine surge whenever that reward hits. So say you indulge in a daily candy bar. You eat it and then you feel good — that sugar works hard to ensure that. After, of course, you feel bad about yourself. But that dopamine is the responsible neurotransmitter for helping you with pleasure. It flushes your brain and that’s your cue, again, to repeat the cycle. And habits play a bigger part than you realize in your daily life: Over 40 percent of everything you do, from not answering those emails to always eating your vegetables, is pure and simply just a habit.
So, you’re stuck with your bad habits. You like your good habits. What do you do to have less of the former and more of the latter? First, you have to ask yourself what’s the cue for the bad habit — what’s the prompt? Do you always have that candy bar at 3 p.m., for example? And what’s your reward for that habit? Do you have a craving for sugar because you’re tired? If so, then how can you reward yourself differently and change that cue? For example, one idea would be to get up for a walk, but do that walk on a route that doesn’t take you past the vending machines in your office. Maybe, instead, there is a great view from a window in the building. Or maybe to wake yourself up you simply need to get outside for a little fresh air, which will help break the bad habit cycle and instead establish a new cue-reward-routine.
Maybe your bad habit is all about doing too much. If that’s the case, then do you have a lot of technology that’s trying to interfere with you taking care of anyone task? Then the change and the way to reframe that bad habit is simple — set a new routine where you get rid of one of those distractions for a set amount of time.
Want to learn more? This graphic from Quill.com will help you.