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How to Form New Habits Easily. Quickly Change Your Behavior.
A habit is an automatic behavior. Meaning you don't really think about it and you don't need to use a lot of willpower. You just do it. Turning on the TV at 8:00 pm can be a habit. So can sitting on the couch while you watch TV. Once something becomes a habit the behavior feels natural. Doing it feels right. Not doing it feels wrong. If you give up a habit you usually miss it.
They say "Old habits die hard." but I broke one of my oldest habits. It was pretty easy. I stopped sitting on the couch after I turned the TV on. I started working out while I watched TV. Starting new habits can be very difficult but getting into the habit of biking to the beach once a week in the summer was very easy. Recently I tried to start some new habits but I was not succeeding. So I made starting the new habits easy.
Habits have triggers that start the behavior, the behavior itself and the reward.
People form associations through repetition. You associate events with behaviors. A trigger or cue is something that causes you to react. It causes the behavior. If it is 8:00 pm then I turn on the TV. Before you form a trigger the behavior is less automatic. You think about what you are going to do instead of just reacting. You can create new triggers fairly easily.
I trained my dog using association. The commands I give him trigger specific behaviors. I also trained myself. When I turn on the TV I feel like exercising. When I think of the word 'beach' it makes me feel relaxed. The trigger could be a time, place, word, phrase or an event. For best results make the trigger more than one thing. Making it a time and place works better than making it a time or a place.
Start with the trigger, do the action and then get the reward.
It is important to be rewarded to reinforce good behavior. The reward can be almost anything that does not prevent you from achieving your goals. It can even be something that you already do. Allowing yourself to watch TV, play video games, use the internet, eat dessert or buy something could be your reward. Sometimes doing the behavior brings about its own reward. After filling up on healthy food I feel satisfied and energetic. Eating healthy makes me feel good.
Tips: Forming New Habits
Use reminders. Reminders are things that help you remember to do something. Some easy ways to remind yourself to do something are to make a note to yourself, set an alarm or place the tools you need out in the open. If you want to exercise while you watch TV try putting a note near or on your TV. Another way is to set the exercise equipment in front of the TV. When you go to turn on the TV you will be reminded to exercise. After doing it for a few weeks the reminders will no longer be necessary. Turning on the TV will become the trigger.
I put a note on my alarm clock to remind me to do push ups before getting in the shower. I put a note beside the TV remote to remind me to clean the house for 2 minutes before watching TV and I put a note on my bed so I would not forget to get my clothes ready for the morning. After placing the notes I did the behavior everyday. It is much easier and faster to form habits when you use reminders.
Pair the new habit with an old one. There are things that you do on a daily basis like eating, sleeping, watching TV, using your computer, etc. Do the new behavior right before, right after or while you are doing something that you normally do. I paired working out with watching TV. If I can't do the workout while I watch TV then I workout before I watch TV.
Start small. When you try to start a new habit start small. If you change a habit make small changes. You have a greater chance of success when you make it as easy ass possible. Form the habit and then change it if you want. I got into the habit of exercising for 15 minutes a day. Then I gradually increased it to an hour a day. When I wanted to consume fewer calories I switched to drinking mostly water. After I go into the habit of drinking water I also reduced the amount of dessert I ate.
Look forward to doing it again. The rewards you get for doing the behavior should make you want to do it again. It is winter now and I am looking forward to biking to the beach in the summer even though biking long distances is really hard work. Thinking about the behavior should make you feel good. A sense of accomplishment and endorphins are two rewards that make me feel good. Challenge yourself.
Get others to support you. Try to find other people that will give you encouragement. A little extra encouragement can make a big difference. If that is not enough then try to get people to do it with you. Pick a time and place to do the activity with another person or a group of people. You may have noticed that a lot of people need an exercise partner, trainer or group because they can get themselves to workout alone.
© 2014 Michael H