Nothing else works in changing a habit other than making a daily change
Single points of change increase change across the board. You can start with
- Positive thinking
- One-goal focus
- Eliminating the non-essential
- Daily routine.
So, how do we change a habit
First of all, we need to understand why: habits save mental energy, so healthy habits mean healthy lives.
Second, the trick is not to resist bad habits but to replace them with good habits. Charles Duhigg
is the recognized authority on the subject of habit change, via his brilliant and easy-to-read book The Power of Habits.
Third, to do this, follow this 3-step process:
1. Identify the bad habit you want to change. What happens right before the bad habit? Is it a person, place, thing, feeling, or time? What is the cue
2. What is some good habit you want to do instead at that time. What is the routine
3. When you do that good habit, what reward are you going to give yourself? What is the reward
Cue - routine - reward is the basic formula for habit formation.
How do we keep the changed habit in place
? This has to do with other cues. People, places, things and feelings are the main ones that can bring us back into the old habit. Here are some suggestions:
- Change your environment.
- Put up barriers between you and the people or places.
- Make a public declaration of your work to as many people as possible.
- Associate with people who have good habits and do not have your previous bad habit
- Accept and be patient with yourself, knowing that it can take a while to eliminate all the cues.
Here's a simple visual flow-chart of these basic ideas
Here's a great re-statement of the same basic principle of cue - routine - reward and replacing bad habits with good:
"The Golden Rule of Habit Change says that the most effective way to shift a habit is to diagnose and retain the old cue and reward, and try to change only the routine."
Good news! It takes about 66 days on average to develop a new habit! Learn about the vital research into the question here
Want to learn the basic habit research by psychologists? Jeremy Dean's genius is simply presenting it all in as few words as possible. His book of the same title present eye-popping notions in the same engaging prose:
Making Habits Breaking Habits.
Scott Young breaks the conditioning aspects of habit change down into action steps quite clearly here
The role of patience, self-acceptance, simplicity, and gentleness is vital to habit formation, and Leo Babatua seems to head this group of memes. For example, nomeatathlete writes about patience beautifully and inspirationally here
Here is the contrary view (as always on the internet) on how to use pings and sticknotes to learn multiple habits at the same time.
The basic idea is to put a reminder in your phone, and a physical bit of paper where the new habit will be performed, eg - flossing - sticky note on the bathroom door; stretching - sticknote in the bedroom when you wake up. The author of this excellent piece also suggests that we can chain multiple habits into a super habit of effective rituals when you wake up.
Here's another marvellous contrarian view of changing multiple habits and building super habits
Finally, the chief web guru on habit formation, Leo Babatua, holds forth here in a comprehensive checklist of to-do items for habit formation.
Self-control is essential in habit formation, and Jeremy Dean on the marvellous psyblog has a bunch of suggestions:
- Abstract thinking renews self-control.
So dig into your copy of Hegel or Kant on your lunch break! :)
- Self affirmation, thinking about your positive traits, and contemplating what you value and cherish increase self-control.
Maybe a new habit can include those things.
- Accept that self-control is a limited resource, use rewards and penalties, lower expectations, and pre-plan around achieving your goals ahead of time,
according to this blog entry.