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Here is Mr. HABIT 

What is a Habit?

I want to become a better listener! I want to spend less time on my phone! I want to eat healthy! I want to exercise more!

Have you ever tried to change an old bad habit?  If so, you already know that habits are hard to change. They are engrained, unconscious and automatic. They are powerful and they trick us. They would do anything not to be put away. 

How do we create our habits? 

First of all, habits are created in our brain and they represent an energy efficient way to operate. When we are learning something new our brain is fully engaged and it uses a lot of energy. Once we have developed a certain level of expertise (through repetition) that activity becomes automatic and our brain can decrease the level of activity. It starts operating in a trigger-reward mode thus saving energy. 

In presence of a specific trigger (a sound, a smell, a sensation, a place, someone’s behavior,…) our brain will find the specific response that is associated with that trigger. For example: eating junk to loosen up after a long day at work, talk more than listen to feel in control, checking the phone to feel wanted or liked, nestling on the couch to feel safe. 

Our brain learns to “anticipate” the reward and that makes our habits stick. The more we repeat an activity the higher will be the “craving” for that reward. For example, you can feel the pleasure of drinking a cool beer and eating chips well before you get to them. Once you start imagining the pleasure of having those goodies, it will be very difficult to resist. It is the anticipation that makes habits very powerful and sticky. 

What happened when you try to change an old habit? 

Your brain will fight back. Depending on what you are trying to change, it will start developing neurological patterns associated with feeling upset, frustrated, deprived, attacked. You stopped satisfying an important need and your brain is claiming it. It craves it.



So, how do we change habits?

To successfully change a habit, you need to understand why you established it in the first place. What need is your habit trying to satisfy? Once you know this, you can start replacing it with something of the same value. Look at these steps:

  1. Identify the specific habit you want to change: for example, instead of saying “eating less junk” (generic) you may say “stop eating chips at night” (specific).


  1. Understand what is the reward that the old habit satisfies: do chips help you relax after a long day at work?


  1. Find an alternative reward: something that can satisfy the same need. What else makes you feel relaxed? Taking a warm shower, talking to a friend, putting some music on? Choose the new habit “to be”. 


  1. Repeat – repeat – repeat. Repetition of a new habit will help create a new “craving” sensation: “I can’t wait to get home to take a shower while listening to good music”. 


  1. Appreciate the benefits: “This new routine makes me feel so much more…..”.


  1. Find someone to support you - a friend, a colleague, a group or a coach. For example, if you live with someone you may agree not to bring chips into the house and to buy healthier snacks instead.


  1. Believe that you can change! Because you can!


Try – Try – Try your new habit to be.



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