Everyone has been there, trying to integrate exercise, or a better nutrition pattern or just want to give up a bad habit.
Often people fail at this, miserably and come crashing out of the process with even lower confidence, willpower and self-esteem.
Human psychology is an enormous subject and one we’re only just scratching the surface of, but we’re creatures of habits. Habits that are ingrained from a very young age, and they follow a very specific route:
- the thought
- the act
- the reward
- the reinforcement
Identifying a Bad Habit
This creates very specific pathways in the brain, and the brain loves to do as little as possible so it sets up shortcuts, shortcuts that hardwire habits into you.
For instance, feel anxious, reach for a cigarette, feel better. This pattern becomes such a part of your life that you don’t even know or understand why you do it anymore.
Take eating fast food as an example, you get home from work tired on a Friday night and treat yourself to a takeaway, you get a feeling of reward from this, a happy feeling and it’s only once a week so who cares. Roll on Saturday, you’ve had a beer down the pub come home and don’t want to cook, the habit repeats.
Monday rolls around, you get home from the first working day of the week exhausted, you reach for the fast-food menu. This is how you go from eating relatively well to very poorly in a short space of time.
Overcoming Your Bad Habits
This means in short that in order to overcome a negative habit you need to understand how to override it, how to create a new habit that has stronger feelings of reward attached to it.
We’ll take the eating thing as an example, most people have at least one day off work a week, be it a Sunday or whenever, this gives you a unique opportunity to prepare for the work week ahead. So create a day off habit to cut and prepare your vegetables, and cook lunches, maximum 2-3 hours work.
You get home from work, the food is ready to be cooked in minimal time. You have no excuses left but to cook the food you spent time preparing.
Experience the Power of Habit Hacking
I have a bit of challenge for you, I’m going to pick 3 very simple habit changes from 3 areas of your life, exercise, nutrition and lifestyle, and I’m going to give you that simple change to try for 1 month, this way you can experience the power of habit hacking for yourself.
Let’s start with exercise. One of the things most people struggle with is to start moving more, and it’s one of the simplest things to do, make a commitment to walk, only 20 minutes to start but you must pick a time to attach it to.
For instance, I would suggest starting your day with it, after waking can be the best time to walk to clear the mind ready for the day. Set your alarm 30 minutes early for this moderately intense activity. Oh, I didn’t say you could dawdle.
My tips would be to ensure your clothes are ready before bed, put your shoes by the door along with your headphones, and a bottle of water. Remove any obstacles you may have to doing this habit.
If you really can’t commit to a morning walk, try your lunch break, or immediately following getting home from work. Or dropping the kids off at school.
Nutritional changes take time, and you’re often goaded into making extreme short changes that promise all the results without any of the longevity.
So I propose a small change, instead of cereal for breakfast have eggs within 30 minutes of waking, 2-3 eggs prepared however you prefer them.
If you struggle for time in the mornings again you have two options, set your alarm earlier, or boil some eggs in batch on your day off.
This simple act of adding protein to your breakfast has a dramatic effect on the hormones and processes relating to fat loss. Again do this for 1-month minimum and see how it affects your day and your mindset.
The thing almost no one addresses is sleep. Working with clients directly I often encountered periods of time where peoples progress stalled, one of the key areas which are often neglected is sleep. You address the sleep and suddenly the progress continues.
Sleep, as we know, is incredibly important, without it our brains can’t particularly keep up its ability to process information properly and our bodies get tired.
I’m going to focus on sleep quality here, with one simple task, turn off and remove all electronic devices one hour before sleep.
What you do in that time is up to you but there are many options:
- Take a warm bath
- Read a book
- Go for a walk
- Talk with your partner, housemate or parents (depending on your living situation)
- Have sex
The important things are that you find a way to reduce your reliance on information, to slow the mind and prepare you for sleep. Through this the plan is to increase your sleep quality, winding down the mind and enabling a quick transition into the land of nod.
We all have different requirements when it comes to sleep, some of you may get by on 6 hours, others may need 9 or more and everything in between and that’s down to you to discover, but try and make every hour count from the point of view of quality.
Habits are hard to form and even harder to break, but we can hack our habits by attaching new ones to old ones, triggers that cause you to sit up and think about your actions.
Be that by attaching a post-it note to your bathroom mirror, or setting your clothes by the bed ready for the next day, it’s all about engaging your brain to pursue change.
I really want to hear from you how well this little experiment went, if you commit I think you’ll get some surprising changes, if not on the outside for sure on the inside.
For some added accountability I want you to email me with your commitment.
Then I want you to keep me updated on your progress, in the comments below, or email directly!