Habits are generally talked about in the negative sense — “This is a bad habit” or “I’ve got to break this habit” — but they don’t need to be. Habits are just things we regularly do, often without thinking, like, say, breathing. No one can argue that breathing is a bad habit, but since it’s beneficial, people don’t usually think of it that way.
Today we’re going to figure out how to develop and maintain good habits. One approach is a method, described in this video by Charles Duhigg, a reporter at The New York Times and the author of The Power of Habit. He explains that there are three parts to a habit.
This is the thing that signals or instigates your habit. Figuring out what that is might be difficult, but it really only requires you to be a little aware of what’s happening. Is your unwanted activity a response to a recurring action? Does it happen at the same time every day? Keep track of when, where or why your urge is triggered.
This is the thing that you do in response to the cue, like snack on something less than ideal. This is the easiest thing to put your finger on because you probably feel guilty about doing it.
This is the thing you are actually enjoying about your habit. Of the three steps, this one will be the most difficult to identify, but test a couple hypotheses and see which one gives you the real reward. As with Duhigg, what you may really be craving is some human contact or a change of scene and not a snack or a cigarette.
Once you’ve identified your reward, you can bypass the negative routine and go right for the good stuff! When you feel the cue, change the routine action in some positive way, but still give yourself whatever the reward was. Repeat for a few days or a week and — bingo! — new habit successfully formed!
You can also change your routine(s) by creating your own cue. Use your alarm clock as one and start your day by putting on your work out clothes first thing in the morning, even before your brush. If you’re dressed for the activity, you’re much more likely to go out for a run or a brisk walk.
How to apply this to your fitness goals
If you’re here in Paris, there are temptations all over the place, but there are also rewards. One of the biggest must be being healthy enough to enjoy all that this city has to offer.
You probably already walk a fair amount of stairs during the day – the metro and older buildings provide ample opportunities for getting your steps in – but if that’s not enough, you’ve got to look at other ways to increase your movement, decrease consumption of things that aren’t beneficial to your health and improve your overall fitness level. If you are having trouble figuring out why you’re not able to break bad habits — or can’t identify them on your own — get in touch.
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