How to create healthy habits, and break bad ones

A client recently sent me the article below about how Target finds out information on our buying habits.  The article focused on current habits, and how to change them.

Here are some interesting studies on habits:

“One study from Duke University estimated that habits, rather than conscious decision-making, shape 45 percent of the choices we make every day.”

“Habits aren’t destiny — they can be ignored, changed or replaced. But it’s also true that once the loop is established and a habit emerges, your brain stops fully participating in decision-making. So unless you deliberately fight a habit — unless you find new cues and rewards — the old pattern will unfold automatically.”

So lets identify our bad habits by identifying the “cues” that may activate and “bad” habit loop- i.e. overeating to feel better. Here are some:

  • a stressful phone call
  • a demanding boss
  • children and teens being difficult
  • too much to do with too little time
  • setting an overwhelming health goal

When we react to these cues, we may overeat or skip a workout because of the reward; feeling better by eating comfort food or getting more free time or rest in lieu of exercise. The truth is, we feel worse when we eat poorly and skip exercise.

So, how do we create healthy habits?  We can start by re-interpreting what the cues above mean.  Here’s an example:

Instead of focusing on how much you have to get done and how little time you have to do it, focus on how you can do a great 5 minute workout that will tone your muscles and increase your metabolism, and how taking 5 minutes to plan your menu will greatly decrease the possibility of choosing poor foods.  This will be your cue for creating a healthy loop when you are stressed, and the reward will be, how good you feel.

Life is a matter of how you interpret everything that happens to you. How will you interpret the next stressful situation in your life, so you can create a healthy habit?  Leave your comment below (on the website).

Here’s the Times article >

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1 comment for this entry:

  • Elizabeth

    When I am faced with a stressful situation, the first change I notice in my body is how my breathing changes. It is almost as if I can’t catch my breath or can’t take a deep breath.

    Instead of reacting to the situation by eating or skipping a workout so that I can wallow in the stress, I try to focus on my breathing. I focus on taking slow even breaths that will calm my mind and help me to handle a situation with a clear head, instead of reacting to a situation in a way that I may later regret.

    I find that the more I handle these situations this way, the easier it becomes to act in a thoughtful manner rather than react emotionally to the momentary stress.