Consider the following idea – there is no such thing as a good or a bad habit; we label them ourselves solely based on personal opinion. Habits are habits. Now, there are such habits that keep you on track and move you closer to your goals, and there are habits that pull you further away from them. There are habits that align with the type of person you want to be and those that threaten to submerge you in a vicious cycle of self-sabotage and deconstruction. Each action we take on a daily basis is a choice. Simple as that. Some actions may seem more passive and occur on “auto-pilot,” while others require more thought and focus. The key to identifying your habits and making a change to them is to be more aware and intentional with your actions.

There are numerous studies that have been conducted in an effort to prove approximately how long it takes for one to develop a habit. These numbers vary anywhere from 21 to 66 to 254 days. It’s evident that the time it takes for everyone to establish or change a habit is different. Whether you stay on track with the “good” habits you’re trying to develop or continue to fall off course, your repeated behavior is an act of habit-building.

“Good” habits may be thought of in your mind as those you wish to keep or be more consistent about because they are conducive to the life you’re trying to live and the goals you’re reaching for. A common example of this is making lifestyle modifications that promote weight loss; eating less processed foods, engaging in physical exercise at least a few times a week, and drinking more water.

On the other hand, a “bad” habit may present itself as something you’ve been doing for quite some time now that you keep trying to kick because you view it as counterproductive or toxic to your lifestyle, environment, or relationship. These habits are perceived differently by everyone and are subjective, but a few examples may be smoking tobacco, eating late at night, spending excessive amounts of time in front of a screen, spending money that you don’t have, and negative self-talk.

So, the question then becomes “how do I develop a new habit or change a “bad” one?” An excellent book I’ve read on the concept of habitual behavior is called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In this book, Duhigg refers to THE HABIT LOOP — “This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.” He then goes on to identify each component and calls this THE FRAMEWORK; “Identify the routine. Experiment with rewards. Isolate the cue.”

If we put this into a real life application, an example may look like this: The cue could be that you’re stressed out with a nearing deadline for work (trigger), so your routine is burying your face into a large pizza for one (reaction – physical in this example, but can be emotional or mental) because that’s what you always do to make yourself feel better (reward). If your goal is to find a healthier solution to managing your stress that doesn’t involve consuming 3,000 calories in a single sitting, you may alternatively start working toward this scenario: Recognizing that you are stressed about an upcoming deadline (isolate the cue), resisting the urge to binge eat comfort food and hopping on the treadmill instead to burn off steam and clear your head (CHANGING the routine), which then results in feeling relieved and of more sound mind to redirect your focus on the project at hand (experiment with rewards). The more times in a row that you perform this loop, as opposed to your traditional habit loop, you are allowing for your brain to create new nerve paths that are slowly changing your routine.

Ultimately, the ability to change or to stay exactly the same is within you. I hope that’s encouraging to you because the mind is a very powerful tool that can do incredible things when intentionally put to use. It may take some time and you’ll need to be patient and trust the process, but as Charles puts it, ”Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” Now is the time to take action to become a better version of yourself.



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