The Equation of Habits (Part II)
“40% of the actions people perform each day aren’t actual decisions, but habits” -Charles Duhigg “The Power of Habit” The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Habit: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. I never knew that in the definition of habit, the last part of “especially one that is hard to give up” existed, but it makes sense. Ever hear part of a song in your head or somewhere else and have to finish it? (For reference, if you've even been in a bar when "Sweet Caroline" plays, this is a Habit Loop in Full Force;)
The great news with Habits, is that your brain doesn’t recognize what is actually “good” and what is actually “bad”. For example, if you want to start waking up earlier every morning, your brain might try and trick you and tell you this is “bad”, because it feels bad, but we all know that’s just temporary. Our brain was designed to save energy rather than be right. So it hates working harder than it did before. And that is exactly what's going on when you are trying something new. Whether tying your shoe or trying a diet, your brain hates change... At first. Once you get into the habit of something (eating awful vs eating healthy) it is hard to give up just like the definition states. But again, the good news is that once you start building more and more of those good habits, they too will be hard to give up.
To start, we are going to talk about how you can change an Old Habit. Let’s take the example of over-eating. In order to change an old habit, you must address and old craving. For over-eaters, there is a part of our brain that tricks us into thinking that eating more will somehow make us happier, and we all crave to be happier. But for those who fight this battle, we know that is a lie. Again, our brain doesn’t know the difference between good and bad, it just knows what is good, and what is better.
So, when dealing with and old craving, you have to keep the same cues and rewards as before, and feed the craving by inserting a new routine. As I stated in the first blog, I do not believe in repression or cutting things out completely (I’m your new favorite wellness advocate aren’t I?) What I do believe in, is moderation. If we are sticking with the example of over-eating, I want to give you the equation of how you can change the routine.
So, you just finished that first plate off pretty quickly. Your brain is telling you that you are still hungry. That’s your cue. Your past reward has been to get up, get another plate, and sit back down to eat it. So we need to change the routine. Just like an exercise in the gym, I will give you my version, then a modified version.
In the first version of the exercise, change your routine of getting that second plate, to that of drinking 12-16 oz’s of water and sitting for five minutes (in front of the TV if you’d even like). The idea behind this routine is one, water will help aid in your digestion, as well as help fill up your stomach receptors that communicate with your brain. Two, it will give you time to digest.
The modified version is to eat an apple. In this one, we are not taking the routine of eating away, but adding in something that will benefit you more than what you would most likely have put on that second plate. AND, apples have a lot of fiber. Big player in the game for signaling to your brain that your stomach’s full.
So now that you have a game plan. Get out and start practicing. As I stated in the first blog, if you are just beginning your journey, portion control is a great first step to work on throughout the day, and not just at night.
Take a couple weeks to log, track, and see what habits you like, and don't like. We will be discussing next week the Habit Loop model Social Media giant's use to hook your kids and you to coming back;) Here is a great reference guide from Charles Duhigg himself.