by Kusha Karvandi
Charles Duhigg explains in his best selling book, “The Power of Habit,” the three simple steps that all habit adheres to and follows. The Habit Loop which is the title of this cycle states that all habits normally have:
- A trigger. This is the event that normally starts the habit.
- A routine. This is normally the behavior that you will be doing and is normally the habit.
- A reward. These are the assumed benefits/reward that is normally associated with the habit itself.
The image above explains how the three factors normally work hand in hand to start a new habit. All the phases in this loop are important during the process of building new habits. The first factor which is habit triggers is explained below.
A new habit can be triggered in five primary ways. After reading and understanding the five different ways, it will be up to you to choose the best method that is suitable for you. You need to know the following information about the all the triggers.
Trigger one. Time factor.
The most common way to trigger any habit is by time. A good example is the normal day to day morning habits. By simply waking up in the morning, cascades of habits are normally triggered: taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting dressed up for the day and making a cup of tea or coffee.
There are also many other common and recognized ways in which our behaviors are triggered by time. Paying close attention, you will notice that some tasks are repeated mindlessly at different times during the day. This may include buying a snack at the same time in all evenings, having a smoking break every morning and so on.
In case they are bad habits, taking a stock of how you feel at the time of the habit is very important. In most cases if not all, the habits are normally an expression of how we feel. Being bored is one of the feelings. You may decide to break the afternoon monotony by simply having an afternoon snack. A smoke break may be away of hooking up with other co-workers hence chasing away loneliness. By simply finding out the reasons behind the habits, it will be easy to find a new habit and deal with the void. By so doing, you will have replaced the bad habit but not replaced it.
How I use my time
Triggers which are time based can be stacked together with other routines repeatedly. This is my best method. For myself, I perform my vision exercises while my coffee is brewing. This pattern is driven by time and date. How good or bad I feel about performing the exercises doesn’t matter. Sticking to the schedule is all that matters and this habit is triggered by time.
Trigger two. The location.
If you have ever walked into your kitchen and ate cookies which are at a plate in the counter then you understand the power that location has on your behaviors.
Location is the most powerful driver of most mindless habits according to me. Location is also the factor that is least recognized by most people. Our behaviors and habits are normally responses to the surrounding environment. The study on soft drinks versus water is just one example of how our environment promotes good or bad habits.
Location based triggers could even be things that we create. Multiple studies conducted by Wendy Wood and David Neal from Duke University showed that new habits are performed more easily in new locations.
One of the theories tries to explain how we normally assign habits mentally to a specific location. This simply means that all the areas that you are familiar with have their behaviors, routines and even habits which are already assigned to them. The only way you can get new habits in these locations is by overcoming all the triggers that your mind has assigned to that location. Building a new routine and habit in a new location is just like having another blank slate. You are not necessarily required to overcome any trigger that exists.
How I use my location.
Each and every time I am at the gym, I use the same location for my warm up. This area is a trigger that helps me follow my routine. At times that I don’t feel like training, the location will help me overcome this feeling and hence train as usual.
Trigger three. The preceding event/occasion.
Most of the habits are as a response or even result of something else that normally happen in your day to day life. A good example is that when your phone rings, that is when you will check your new messages. A preceding events is one of the most useful ways for to create triggers which are considered useful in case you want to build a new habit. After understanding stacking habits, you will be able to develop many ways which you will tie the new habits into the preceding events.
How I use the preceding event.
I have used a preceding occasion to stick and follow to a daily gratitude habit for over two years. Before having dinner on each and every night I first think of one thing that I was grateful for during that day. I have also come to realize that the smaller the habit is, the easier it will be for you to follow it and have a routine in your life. You will follow it with little strain or effort.
Trigger four. The emotional state.
Emotional state is also a common trigger for bad habits, according to my experience. A good example is having the habit of regularly eating when feeling depressed and stressed out. Shopping online when feeling bored is also another habit. These negative habits are triggered by the emotional states of boredom or depression.
I find emotions very difficult to control and use during building new habits despite the fact these emotions are very common triggers for our day to day behaviors and routines. If you want an emotion to trigger or cause a positive result or habit, then you have to be aware of the emotions that you are having. This simply means that you have to be aware and emotional at the same time which is a very hard thing to do. Being able to pay attention is another very powerful way to build a good habit but it is also very difficult.
How I use emotions.
I am trying very hard on how to notice the cases that I have tension or even stress. When I realize I am stressed, I use the emotional state to trigger a habit of breathing deeply.
The pattern that I follow is a 3-1-5 breathing pattern which involves three seconds of breathing in, a one second pause and a five seconds breath out session. I tend to repeat this pattern for at least five times. This breathing exercise really relieves stress hence very effective and easy. You can also carry out the simple exercise anywhere and at any time.
Trigger five. People around you.
The people whom you surround yourself with definitely play a very big role on your day to day behaviors and habits. A study conducted in New England showed that if you have a friend that is obese, the chances of you becoming obese increase by fifty seven percent. This is regardless of how far your friend may be living!
My advice to you is that you should only surround yourself with people who have the habits that you want. This is further strengthened by Jim Rohn’s saying that you are normally the average of at least five people who you spend most of your time with.
How I use the people around me.
I am normally not a very heavy drinker but each and every time I spend some time out with my friends I normally have a drink or two. This is normally a response to the kind of people that I spend time with and the environment around me.
What to know before choosing a trigger.
One should know that the main key and aim is choosing a trigger that is very specific and can be acted upon immediately. One should be able to understand this fully. If you want to start a new habit of doing ten pushups during lunch time each and every day, you can begin by having a time based trigger which may involve ten pushups at lunch break. Despite the fact that it may work, it is not specific. Will you be doing your pushups at the beginning, end or at any time during the lunch break?
It is better to create a trigger during a more specific preceding event that normally takes place during your lunch break. You can say that when you close your laptop to go for a lunch break, you will do ten pushups. Closing the laptop is very specific. The time for doing the new habit will never be mistaken.
By experimenting with these tricks yourself, you will get the right answers. You should try the above habit triggers and see if the results are fruitful.