Updated: Dec 1, 2020
The following steps can be applied to any form of habit change. I have applied them myself and i can truly say they are effective.
1. Find a strong reason (do it for the people you care about)
Finding out the reason why you want to make a change is the first step. This step can be tricky as you are trying to change something that already works for you and might be difficult to change. It can be as simple as stopping smoking or eating healthier. So for example eating healthier means you reduce the risk of getting avoidable diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.
So you need to get clear on the incentive for changing your old eating habits. However research shows that by focussing on the results too much, you actually become less motivated. The best way is to think less about what your new habit can do for you, but how this new habit will help the people you care about. It could be your kids , spouse or family.
2. Find the triggers. When this happens......
If you don't know the triggers to the old behaviour, you will never change because you will already be doing it before you know it. Carrying on with our example, so you want to start eating healthier and build a new habit which serves the people you care about. You come back from work and you're feeling tired and there is nothing to cook in the fridge. You order a pizza and after you feel guilty of eating the pizza you tell yourself, next time i will cook a healthier meal.
How to identify the trigger...... ? You must be specific to some of the types of triggers: time, location, emotional state physical state, other people and previous action. Using the above scenario of ordering a pizza. A trigger might be "nothing to cook in the fridge" (location) "come back from work" (time) "feeling tired" Physical state, "guilt after eating " (emotional state). This is how you can start to identify the moments when there is need to make the right decision which will help you build a strong habit.
3. Define your new Habit
You need to define your new habit as a micro-habit. You must be able to define your new habit in under 60 seconds. By doing it quickly you stop your brain from making up reasons why you cannot achieve your goal. These days were are very busy, some research shows that technology has made this generation the busiest, quickest and most distracted. The fact that we are so consumed in the way we live day to day, we do not have time to sit and ponder on a thought. Most decisions are made for us by our phones so, make the decision fast.
How to define the new habit......? Short and specific. For example, "I will do my weekly shop and plan my meals every Sunday". That's it.......these three components cover time , location and action which can also be traced back and be linked with the triggers.
4. Practice daily
If eating healthier is your new habit. The best thing to do is to replace ready made meals and start cooking your own meals daily. Looking up new recipes and exploring other foods. However changing your eating habit will not happen overnight and it can also be overwhelming so, it must be done in phases. Maybe start by changing just the breakfast, followed by lunch then dinner. Keep the same consistency throughout until you whole 3 meals are clean and finally celebrate your success, share the news with your friends / family and become their inspiration.
5. Have a get back on track PLAN
Changing a habit isn't easy and one day you will slip and go back to the old habit. This happens to everyone so, do not be so hard on yourself. The main thing is that when you slip up you have a pan in place to get back on track to build even a stronger new habit. For example, your cooking has been going very well and you begun to eat healthy for 2 weeks, then one day you stumble. Don't be that person that says "I've had one slice, i might as well have the whole cake".
A back up plan could be to fast for 6 hours as a subtle punishment which will reinforce your behaviour. Also remember realising you slipped up is an important lesson, because you can go ahead and follow your recovery plan. To break the old habit after all you need to be resilient and have a constant reminder of why you're changing the old habit.