Habit Loop: The Science Behind New Habits
You force yourself to try new things - whether that be a cleaner diet, more exercise or maybe even saving some money, but do you actually give yourself any reward for achieving these goals? What goals along the way do you have to step back and appreciate the process?
Think about a common new year's goal - weight loss. Many people say they want to lose weight in the new year. They start eating healthier, exercising more often, limit their alcohol consumption and maybe even tell their friends to challenge themselves with weight loss.
The main reason people fail is not that the goal is not obtainable, but because they do not utilize science behind installing new habits.
How Do We Install New Habits?
Habits are shortcuts in thinking that reduce the number of decisions we have to make throughout the day.
We teach ourselves to take a certain path automatically as soon as we recognize we have the option. It’s the Cue that tells us we are at that decision.
The Routine is the path we have taught ourselves to take.
The Reward is what makes our brains light up, in an area called the amygdala.
That creates the sensation of pleasure.
Example: When Pat gets home, she always puts her keys on the table, pours some apple juice and drinks it while she thumbs through the mail. Then, she starts to feel relaxed and allows her mind to transition from thoughts of work to her home life.
* The Cue: Arrive at home.
* The Routine: Lay the keys on the table, pour juice and sip while browsing the mail.
* The Reward: A relaxing, calming sensation; the sweet taste of juice, and the anticipation of possibly finding her favorite magazine in the mail.
Isolate the Cue
The most important step in installing new habits - especially for weight loss, isolate a cue for a new habit.
If your new year's resolution is to lose weight - a simple cue could be to wake up to the smell of coffee.
The routine would then be to wake up, go for a run/HIIT train at home - and then enjoy a warm cup of coffee with your breakfast as a reward.
For this to become a new habit it must continue over time. One day on and one day off will not incorporate this into your life. Take care to stay on track by maintaining this routine for weeks on end.
Switch up Your Reward
A cup of coffee can get a little boring sometimes. Perhaps you are not a morning exerciser - I know I’m not. Changing your reward can enable you to effectively utilize the same cue, routine, reward pattern without the morning lift.
Here’s an example that I personally use. I train early afternoon each day.
* The Cue: Arrive at the gym.
* The Routine: Warm up, workout, cool down, stretch
* The Reward: A relaxing, calming sensation; the sweet taste of my post-workout protein shake.
At first, this may sound strange, but installing a new habit comes down to consistency. After a week or so you look forward to the protein shake - and when you forget them - you rush home to make one!
For a clean and great tasting protein shake, FUEL X30 cannot go unnoticed (Chocolate Brownie Flavour is my favorite).