Many people who have studied habits will know that there is a procedure that all habits follow which allows them to form:
The trigger that makes the habit begin, the routine which is the habit itself, and the reward which is the advantage connected to the habit. All 3 of these things form a circle which helps you perform the habit over and over.
The Habit Circle
If you imagine the formation of a habit as a circle, you have to first begin with a reminder. This is the thing that begins the habit or remind you to do it. Next, you have the action you take to do a particular task which is the habit itself. Finally, you have the reward which is the benefit that you get from performing that habit – if this is a positive result you’ll be more likely to follow on to the reminder stage once again and repeatedly perform the action, ultimately helping you keep a new habit.
There are 5 things that can help you keep a new habit – each method will work for different people and for the type of habit that you’re trying to create. Keep reading to find out which is best for you!
Time Time is maybe the most widely recognized approach to keeping a new habit. For example, regular morning routines. Just waking up in the morning can start off a number of common habits e.g. turn off the alarm, make the bed, have a shower, brush your hair, get dressed and so on.
Similarly, you will notice that your routine might also dictate when you perform certain other actions during the day. For example, having a coffee break at the same time each day, or walking to the local bakery because you “just need to get out of the office”.
Some routines are fine to have, but if your patterns are leaving to negative habits, then it’s a good idea to really examine your daily routine and see if you are performing these negative habits at the same time each day. Maybe you have your coffee at the same time every day because you’re feeling cut off and looking for an excuse to have a chat with your colleagues. Maybe you walk to the bakery because you’re sick of staring at your computer screen and you need a change of scenery.
What To Do: If you think time is the thing that would help you set and keep a new habit, then choose a specific date and time to perform a new action (e.g. meditate for 10 minutes on Monday and Friday mornings at 6pm) and stick to that routine. The time will help you get into the habit circle.
If you’ve ever sat in a restaurant and eaten all the bread and olives the waiter has placed on the table in front of you, you will understand how easily place can have an effect on your actions.
Understandably, your surroundings can have the strongest effect on our habits. Interestingly enough, we often have fixed routines for certain places which means that the more familiar the place, the more established the habit. Forming a new habit can be started by introducing a new place into your routine.
What To Do: Sometimes you might not be in the mood to train, but if you go to the same places each day to train, you can have the same gym locker, workout clothes at the ready and same area to do your warm up, this sets up the routine that will eventually become a habit.
What Has Just Happened
When forming a habit or thinking about where a habit came from, you also need to think about the event that has just happened before you have performed a particular action.
In terms of starting a new behavior and helping you keep that habit, looking at your previous actions can be really helpful. For example, I’ve noticed that whenever I make a cup of coffee, I scroll through my Instagram. Maybe this isn’t the best use of my time – so, by pairing this habit with something else such as checking my work emails, I have used the first action to trigger the second action.
What To Do: Look at your current habits and really think about how you’re using your time. My New Year’s resolution this year was to talk to my friends and family more (I live really far away from them, and don’t see them very often!), so I’ve made a habit of Whats Apping my mates every lunchtime. It cures my midday boredom, and I feel a lot happier, too. It’s only something small, but that means it’s easier to do!
Generally, the way that you feel can have a massive impact on your routine and your habits. For example, smoking when you’re stressed or eating when you’re bored.
Seeing as your feelings are quite difficult to control, this means that it is one of the things that is hardest to use in order to stick with a new habit. Unless you are really in tune with your emotions throughout the day (which many people are not) then it can be hard to understand how your feelings are affecting your behaviour.
What To Do: If you eat when you’re stressed, find something to relieve your stress. Get a stress ball and keep it in your pocket! This type of preventative tactic will help you stop performing bad habits.
It’s probably no real surprise that the people in your life can act as triggers for your habits. “Your vibe attracts your tribe” as the saying goes, and if you’re putting out a positive vibe, your friends will also feel positive. However, this can also have negative influences on your own habits. If you’ve recently quit smoking but your friend that still smokes wants you to keep him company, you’re more likely to start up the habit again.
What To Do: Do what you want to do. Listen to yourself. If you’re at a restaurant with friends and they’re all getting dessert, don’t get one if you’re full and don’t want one!
Before You Choose One of These 5 Things
Certain things can be more successful for helping your keep to a new habit than other things. The key is to remember this:
Be Specific – When you set yourself a new time goal e.g. “I will do 5 minutes of yoga in the morning”, you need to be as specific as possible to help you set that time routine in your mind. When in the morning? Before you take a shower? After you’ve brushed your teeth? Decide when is best for you.
Experiment – As with many things, you might find that one trigger doesn’t work for you, so try out a few and see which is the best method to help you stick to a new habit.