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5 Ways to Create (Or Break) a Habit

How to Form The Groundwork For Better Behaviors
Filed Under > Health & Wellness

The other day, MKR and I strayed on our morning call to wonder about what it takes to form new habits and what it takes to break the bad ones.  We both agreed that it’s quite a fascinating topic really; the psychology behind what makes us do the things we do, and what it takes to actually change our behavior when we’re on auto-pilot.  We talked about how habits affect our eating behavior, fitness routine, productivity and just about every arena of our day-to-day life…and we wanted to know how to better control them. 

With my interest peaked, I started doing some digging, and I listened to this NPR interview with Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit.  Duhigg shares some interesting insight about the psychology of the habit loop (there’s always a trigger or cue, as well as the behavior itself and then a final reward).  I especially thought the fact that we’re more likely to break certain habits when we’re on vacation was SO interesting. (One more reason to pack our bags, right?!)

But with vacation over a month away, I also wondered how long it would take to create or break a habit.  Perhaps you too have heard it takes 21 days to form a new habit.  Three weeks to quit smoking, three weeks to stick to a consistent gym routine, three weeks to start making your bed, 3 weeks to apply sunscreen everyday…doesn’t seem so hard to do, right?  Unfortunately, the magical 21 number may actually be just a myth (derived from Psycho-Cybernetics, a book originally published in 1960 by Dr. Maxwell Maltz).  In reality, it probably takes a lot longer than that (looks closer to 66 days even) to form or break a habit, and it’s been widely up for debate with researchers for decades. 

In my quick research, I discovered five ways to help create (or break) a habit.  Click on the image above to read more.  Will you be putting any of these tips to work?  Cheers, Kat

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Plan for The Habit (For a Month)

Plan for The Habit (For a Month)

Before you dive into it, focus on changing habits for a month before actually changing them. Take time to write down the reasons why you do the things you do, and list the reasons why you want to change. This will make you more invested in the long-run and more aware of the obstacles when you face forming a new habit or breaking an old one.

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VIA ANNE STREET STUDIO
Discover the Triggers for the Habit Loop

Discover the Triggers for the Habit Loop

By recognizing and understanding the cues and triggers causing the habits to happen, you're more likely to put an end to (or change) them. It's thought that every cue falls into five categories (location, time, emotional state, other people, and an immediately preceding action). Make note of these factors when you notice the habit happening, and see if there's part of the pattern you can disrupt. Read more here.

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VIA HOUSE OF JADE INTERIORS
Change Your Surroundings

Change Your Surroundings

According to this NPR article, one of the best times to try to break a habit is when you're on vacation. Author of The Power of Habit Charles Duhigg explains, "changing a habit on a vacation is one of the proven most-successful ways to do it. If you want to quit smoking, you should stop smoking while you're on a vacation — because all your old cues and all your old rewards aren't there anymore. So you have this ability to form a new pattern and hopefully be able to carry it over into your life."

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VIA BUNGALOW 1
Create an If-Then Plan

Create an If-Then Plan

By recognizing what's triggering your habit loop, you can put concrete plans of action in place for when the questioning situation arises. Life Hacker explains that having an If-Then Plan mapped out will eventually help strengthen new habits to form.

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VIA HEIDI LAU
Set Reminders

Set Reminders

For a little extra boost, set reminders for yourself in your planner or Google Calendar about the habits you wish to change. This added reinforcement will only help you as you carve a new path of behaviors.

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VIA THE PAPER CHRONICLES
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Featured image, Anne Street Studio

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