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  • Writer's pictureJanice dirksen

Harnessing the Power of Habits: Optimizing Your Routines for Success

Habits are the predictable routines that our brains form to save energy and run more efficiently. Without these habits, our brains would be in constant overdrive, analyzing and making decisions constantly. In fact, research has shown that nearly 45% of our daily actions are habitual (Neal et al., 2006). By reflecting on our daily habits, we can better understand which ones are positive and which can be improved upon or replaced. It's helpful to write down a list of your daily habits and ask yourself, "Are these habits helping me to achieve my goals?" This exercise will allow you to recognize the good, the bad, and the ugly in your current routines.


“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” - John C. Maxwell



Navigating the Challenges of Change

When it comes to changing habits, we all start off with good intentions, but sticking to those changes can become difficult. If you're taking on too much change too quickly, you may become overwhelmed and give up. Alternatively, if the new habit is too difficult, it's best to start simple and break it down into smaller, more manageable steps. This gradual approach will help you work towards your ultimate goal.


Replacing Unwanted Habits with Healthier Alternatives

Some people can quit a habit, such as smoking, cold turkey and never look back. Others, however, may struggle with multiple attempts before finding success. The key to successfully letting go of an unwanted habit is to replace it with a healthier habit that provides a similar reward. By identifying the underlying need or craving that the old habit fulfilled, you can find a new, more positive way to meet that need. Remember, we are all unique, and our reasons for starting or breaking a habit are personal to us. The path to habit change may not be linear, but by approaching it with self-compassion and a willingness to experiment, you can unlock the power of habits to support your goals and improve your overall well-being.


Understanding the Purpose of Old Habits

It's important to understand what the purpose of your old habits is in your current life. Is the habit still serving a relevant function, or is it an outdated, redundant behavior? By understanding the purpose the habit is serving you, you can choose a new, healthier habit that will provide a similar reward.


What is a Habit?

A habit is simply a loop that is stored in your subconscious mind and runs automatically. This loop consists of three parts:

  1. The cue or trigger

  2. The routine

  3. The reward

The more the loop is used, the more hardwired the habit becomes. And what drives this loop? A craving. By examining the purpose behind your old habits, you can consciously choose to replace them with new, more beneficial habits that serve you better in your current life. This self-awareness is the key to making lasting, positive changes.


What is a cue or trigger?

Cues or triggers are stimuli that prompt habitual behaviors. These triggers can manifest in various forms such as a specific location, time of day, emotional state, thought, belief, or interactions with others. Each individual's triggers are unique. For instance, one person might respond to their boss rejecting an idea by turning to a bottle of wine, while another might handle it differently by generating a new proposal. Such reactions are often linked to past experiences, like childhood memories, on an emotional level. Additional triggers could include hunger, anticipation, boredom, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, or predicting someone else's actions. These cues initiate the habitual routine automatically.

An illustration of a positive cue is setting out your gym clothes by your bed to encourage you to put them on and kick-start your exercise routine.


Reshape the Routine

A routine is a series of actions or behaviors that occur automatically in response to a specific trigger or cue. To change a habit, it is essential to recognize the cue consciously, enabling you to alter your reaction to it. Routines can manifest in physical, mental, or emotional forms. For instance, if you aim to improve your sleep habits but find yourself endlessly scrolling through social media when you should be resting, you can intervene by modifying your behavior. By establishing a new routine of leaving your phone in the bathroom after brushing your teeth, you create distance from the temptation of late-night browsing. This simple action, combined with relaxation techniques like deep breathing or reading a book, can help signal your body that it's time to wind down for sleep. By associating the cue of brushing your teeth with leaving your phone outside the bedroom, you can effectively reshape your routine and promote healthier habits.


Celebrating the Win

The most rewarding aspect of a new healthy habit is the positive reinforcement it provides. Our brain craves a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction every time we respond to a trigger by following through with the routine.

For example, if you leave your phone on the bathroom counter before going to bed, you may find yourself feeling more rested and less anxious in the morning, without the constant distraction of comparing your life to others on social media. The reward in this case is an improved emotional and physical state - you feel better about yourself.

This positive reinforcement can then compound, as you may find yourself waking up earlier and able to start another beneficial habit, such as going for a walk, journaling, or meditating. Each new habit you build creates an additional layer of reward, further motivating you to maintain and expand your healthy routines.

The key is recognizing and savoring these small but impactful rewards. By acknowledging the benefits you experience, your brain will be more inclined to continue the behavior, solidifying the habit over time. Celebrating these wins, no matter how minor they may seem, is an essential part of making lasting, positive changes in your life.


Cravings: The Driving Force Behind Habits

Cravings are the powerful motivational force that propel us to engage in habitual behaviors. They are an intense, personalized desire to perform a specific action or consume a particular substance. However, cravings are not simply about engaging in hunger or the need for nutrition; they are about the yearning to alter our internal state.

For instance, a craving for alcohol may not be solely about the taste of the alcohol itself, but rather the ability of alcohol to drown out difficult emotions or facilitate a sense of social ease. Cravings are unique to each individual and how we internalize them. They can be triggered by any piece of information, as people are not motivated by the same cues.

The thoughts, feelings, and emotions evoked by these triggers are what transform them into cravings. Cravings are all about wanting the reward that the habit will deliver. They drive us to engage in the habit response in order to obtain the desired reward, providing the crucial motivation for habit formation.


The Role of Cravings in Habit Sustainability

In summary, cravings are the driving force behind habitual behaviors, as they are specifically about wanting the reward or change in state that the habit will provide. For a new habit to be sustained, the anticipated reward must be powerful enough to satisfy the craving.

Unfortunately, we don't always recognize when we are experiencing a craving until it's too late. By understanding the nature of cravings and their role in habit formation, we can better equip ourselves to manage and overcome the urges that lead to unwanted habits.

By testing alternate rewards to see if they fulfill the craving, we can discover what is truly driving our undesired habit. First, you must understand what triggers the habit, and then you can test alternate rewards to elicit change. The most common cues to try are location, time of day, emotional state, or the people around you.


Identifying Triggers

By being aware of what triggers you, such as walking in your front door right after work and mindlessly snacking as you prepare dinner, you can narrow down the reason for the craving. Before reaching for the bag of cookies or chips, pause and ask yourself what about your work day may be causing you to reach for the pre-dinner snack. Do you dislike your job? Or are you in an unhappy relationship? And what emotional reward is that snack providing you?


Testing Alternate Rewards

You can then begin to try alternative rewards, such as having healthy snacks prepared or inviting your family to join in the ritual of meal preparation and creating a joyful environment. Maybe you just need to walk in the door and decompress with 5-10 minutes of alone time or meditation.


Creating a Positive New Habit

Once you have figured out your own unique patterns and triggers, you can then utilize this information to create a positive new habit and gain the power to change the old habit. By understanding the root cause of your undesired habit and experimenting with alternate rewards, you can break the cycle and establish a healthier, more fulfilling routine.

 

Contact me to discover how hypnosis can empower you to explore and identify your cravings and triggers. Through this process, you can create new, healthy habits that replace the old, unhealthy ones. Hypnosis provides a powerful tool to gain deeper self-awareness and make positive changes in your life. By working with me, you'll have the opportunity to:

·         Uncover the root causes behind your cravings and the specific triggers that lead to unhealthy behaviors. This awareness is the first step towards making lasting changes.

 

·         Leverage the power of hypnosis to reprogram your mind and establish new, constructive habits that support your goals and overall well-being.

 

With my guidance, you can break free from the cycle of cravings and triggers, and embark on a journey of personal growth and fulfillment. Don't hesitate to reach out and learn how hypnosis can help you take control of your life. I'm here to support you every step of the way.

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