Some Thoughts On Habits

I am not an expert on habits, but I do know that habits matter. Habits shape what I do every day - what I eat, where I go, how I speak to my family. I wanted to spend a little time considering  habits on my blog this month. If there was ever a “small thing” that can make a big impact - for the good or not - habits are it.

I first became aware of what a hold that habits can have on me when I tried to break a rather addictive habit - getting coffee every time I made the drive down to town. I’d near the turn off for our mountain Starbucks, and the struggle would begin. “No,” I’d tell myself, “you don’t need a coffee.” But then I’d think about how I really wanted a coffee, and how nice it would be to have something hot to drink while I ran my errands, and I found myself turning off anyway. 

Habits are hard to break, even by sheer willpower. This can be good if you’ve developed a beneficial habit, but in my experience the good habits are never as consuming as the bad habits you are trying to break. Just try NOT picking up your phone for an hour, and you’ll see what I mean. 

But then I picked up a book about habits a few years ago (The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg), and I started to figure out why I was still doing things I was trying not to do. Learning the tricks and a little bit of the phsychology and physiology of habits can help a ton when you are trying to break a habit! I don’t remember everything I read in that book, but there is one aspect that stuck in my brain. It’s been a game changer in figuring out how to turn habits to my advantage.

That thing is habit triggers.

It turns out that most habits that we develop are connected to a trigger. My trigger for buying coffee was errand days (especially if I missed breakfast). My trigger for picking up my phone is boredom. The idea is that once you’ve figured out what your trigger is, you can either break the trigger, or change the habit that you associate with the trigger to something more beneficial.

Just knowing that tidbit about triggers and how habits are connected to them helped me a ton in breaking the “code” to my own habits. It helped me think through how I could break bad habits and develop better ones. 

I’m reminding myself of this now as I consider some habits this month, good and bad, that I’d like to develop or adjust.

For example, if I know that I am going to want coffee when I run errands, I can plan ahead and bring my coffee from home, or I can find a less expensive coffee place to become my new habitual stop. Or I can leave my phone plugged into the wall during the day and carry a book around to pick up when I get that restless, bored feeling. These are just quick examples, to really be successful I probably have to evaluate my habit triggers a little more to figure out the best substitute. But it’s something I’m thinking about and working through right now.

Have you ever considered whether your habits (especially bad ones) have triggers?

(P.S. I hope you’ll excuse me if there are errors in this post, and forgive me for the fact that I don’t have the book suggestion linked - I’m blogging from my phone today because my computer is conking out on me! Time to get a new one I think.)
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Billie Jo said...

Yes to this.
And thank you.
The phone thing is me. And leaving it charging is a good thought! I do love to read, and would love to have more time to do so!

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