6 Steps to Break the Habit Cycle

 

“In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties.”
Henri Frederic Amiel

What do you think about this quote?  I strongly believe that health gives us freedom!

Health gives you freedom to fully participate in the world with energy and ease.  You have full freedom to take care of our health and to choose what nourishes you inside and out.  Exercise is a great way to improve our health. Good quality vitamins and minerals are available to fill the gaps we miss from our diet. Healthy foods and recipes are plentiful.  It is when we are not at our best, overweight, lacking of energy, and sometimes in pain that we feel hopeless and imprisoned by your body.  The good news is you always have choices and options, you can have hope in the freedom that a life of better health can bring.

So why don’t we do what we know is good for us?

Let’s talk about one reason today.  Habit!

There is so much power in habit. There is actually a great book called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.  I highly recommend it.  Here is the concept he provides in the book.

There are habits that honor our wellbeing and many that do not. You are probably struggling with a few right now.  Some have been with us since childhood and wow do they stick.  Just think, childhood is when we are the most impressionable so these habits take longer to change.  There is good news!  You are not alone and you are not destined to a life of low energy, extra body fat, hurting joints, or helplessness.  Let’s start with a review of the habit cycle.

To make it simple remember this:

Stimulus + Response = Positive Consequence 

We are generally programed to do things that provide us with positive consequences. Our brain naturally moves us toward pleasure and away from pain and it will create the easiest, low energy cost way to achieve it.  So the brain creates neuro-pathways (strong lifelong connections) that when triggered a response is completed quickly and with ease. This is what makes driving more automatic over time without having to think “is the light red” we see it and we automatically we stop.  Most of the time at least 🙂

So what happens when you eat a rich, sweet, soft, delicious donut?  When you taste the donut your good friend dopamine (happiness hormone) is released and you feel pleasure. Your brain at that moment has already created a connection that will leave you wanting more in the near to distant future.  You see, your brain and subconscious are very impressionable so it remembers and waits for the stimulus that will cause the response to achieve the positive consequence again. So the next time when you are standing in line at your favorite coffee shop and you had a rough morning with the kids or conveniently forgot breakfast and you spot that oh so sweet pastry strategically placed on the counter, your brain has already made the choice for you before you consciously say “I’ll have a coffee and the bear claw please” because you naturally want to enjoy the morning.  Perhaps you always get a pastry with coffee so the habit is already there, every time you get coffee you want a donut with it or it feels like something just isn’t right.

For those of you trying to reduce your waistline or improve your health these habits are tough to break.  If you think that you can just stop, think again.  Not to mention sugar is actual addictive in nature so cutting it out can cause major withdrawal and binging later.  The best thing you can change is the response to the stimulus (trigger) or you can start to connect negative consequences to the habit that make it less and less appealing. i.e. Think of people who go vegetarian after seeing how their food is raised, killed, and prepped. Also, those who stop smoking when they have children or are criticized for smelling bad or having bad breath.  Brushing your teeth after dinner with really strong mint toothpaste.

Life happens and you will experience triggers like stress, you will want to enjoy bonding with a friend, you will become sad, you will have a coffee, you will go to a party, or perhaps be rejected.   Your brain automatically tells you,  “DO X, Y, or Z,  and you will get the positive result quickly.”  When you change the response or action you will complete the loop and stay within the habit cycle but this time you will choose something that provides you with the same positive consequence and moves you towards your goal.

You can always add new habits and new connections  although when it comes to a pesky unhealthy habit start with these 6 Steps.

CHALLENGE OF THE MONTH:

  1. I challenge you to simply bring awareness to your habits.  Bringing awareness of the repetitive choices you make is the first step to conquering them. Make a note in your phone or in a notebook.
  2. Review each habit. Start with the question, “What is the positive result or consequence I get from doing the habit”.  i.e. I love getting a special sugar coffee drink when I go for a walk with my boyfriend.  I love having something in my hand, it feels special, the walk is bonding time.  It makes me feel good on a fall day and I always have chosen this option when I go to the coffee shop.
  3. Ask yourself, “What is the stimulus (trigger) that prompted me  to make the choice. I see the picture of a specialty drink when  I arrive at the coffee shop.  I’m with my boyfriend, and I had a long day and want to enjoy the walk.  I always get a sugary drink and it does taste good.
  4. Now imagine for a moment how to change the response.  What else could you do to achieve the same positive consequences?  i.e. Choose a skinny drink and cut the calories.  Choose a regular coffee with a single pump of a flavoring. Go for 1/2 the syrup this week and 1/4 the next then perhaps go with a basic coffee with a splash of cream and sugar substitute that you bring with you. You can do what I do, put a piece of dark chocolate in the cup and stir in a bit of cream.  Simply delicious 🙂
  5. Now the next time you go have a plan.  Pause for a moment at the counter when you find your brain wanting to take you quickly to the easiest and “best” response.  Breath, count to 3-5, and make the new choice.
  6. Enjoy the consequence and celebrate it!  Remember your brain is impressionable and so when you celebrate and make a big deal about something and acknowledge the positive consequence you are creating strong new connections occur.  Think about how good you are going to feel getting into a new pair of smaller jeans.  Think of what it felt like to see the scale lower.  Think about how good it felt to be out in nature with someone you love.  Perhaps think of how good you feel having more energy and when you do not experience the crash after a sugar spike.

You need to believe in the power of good habits, trust in the process, and keep diligent in create positive experiences connected to healthier choices.  This will enhance your chances for success tenfold.

Let me know how it goes!!!  You can do this.

Now I leave you with an awesome and oh so appropriate quote from Stephen Covey

 

If you enjoyed this motivational moment and would like to have a coach help you create healthier habits.   Call today and receive a 1 HR complimentary Fit Planning Session! 

810-225-4529

 

Beth Rzendzian is thrilled by bringing wellness into the lives she coaches.  She is the owner of    EverFit Personal Training in Brighton Michigan, Brighton’s premier fitness, empowerment,  and fat loss expert.  She is degreed in Kinesiology/Exercise Science, a nationally certified personal trainer, wellness, and empowerment coach. 

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