Essentially, there needs to be a trigger or cueto initiate the habit loop. This could be your alarm clock ringing, an email coming through or the clock hitting 10am.
This cue is typically subconscious, which means we’re not consciously aware of it. In other words, it’s automatic. Remember what I said before about habits being automatic? 🙂
The cue sets in motion the next stage in the habit loop, which is the routine. From the examples above, the alarm clock cue could trigger you to get up and go for your morning shower (or hit snooze 5 times in a row…) as your routine.
The clock hitting 10am could trigger you to get up from your desk and make your way to the coffee machine as your routine. And so on…
However, none of this would happen without a reward (or at least a perceived reward) for completing the routine.
The reward for your daily shower routine could be feeling awake and fresh. The reward for your morning coffee could be the feeling of alertness and energy. It is this reward that successfully completes the loop and makes it automatic.
When creating a new habit, there is of course a ‘ramp up’ period, where the aim is to create a new loop. This will require conscious effort and require discipline of repetition over a period of 30+ days but will eventually become habitual and automatic, which as you now know is where the magic happens.
I have a resource below to help you out with this part, but for now, the take-home message is to ensure you are consciously creating a reward in your mind for creating your new habit.
What is the reward you will get for going to the gym and completing your exercise class? Is it the endorphin high? Is it being able to have a guilt-free meal? Is it the feeling of moving one step closer to your most important goal?
Whatever it is, link the reward to the new habit you’re creating or the habit loop simply won’t be complete! Cue -> Trigger ->
Reward. No reward = no habit created = no consistency = no results.
As an aside, a ‘hack’ or ‘shortcut’ we often use to create new habits is to hi-jack an already existing habit loop. The cue and reward stay exactly the same, but the routine in the middle is changed, forming a new habit loop.
4) Keep It Simple – One At A Time
Another obstacle to creating new habits is taking on too much at once.
It’s common for multiple areas of your lifestyle to require adjustment in order to successfully achieve your health and fitness goals, but tackling them all at one time rarely works.
This somewhat depends on your unique ability to handle change (often linked to your stress levels) but my team and I usually recommend just 1 or 2 habits to focus on at any one time. We help our clients figure out which 1 or 2 habits to focus on, but it’s typically those that will have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time that are dealt with first.
An example of these ‘high impact’ habits include:
– Daily exercise or movement (walking/yoga/pilates)
– High quality sleep of at least 7-8 hours
– Daily hydration with 2+ litres of pure water
– High-quality nutrition based on whole, unprocessed foods
– Stress management strategies to reduce the impact of stress
There’s a high chance these habits will also be relevant to you, so may also be a good place to start when creating your own new habits.
5) Use A Proven System.
Last but not least, as an extra step to ensure your success in creating a new habit we recommend using a system to track your habits, your consistency and your progress.
There are a few resources we use with our clients to help them do this, which I will share with you below.
1) A Habit Tracking Worksheet – to help you track and record the new habits you are creating.
This sheet includes a section to help you first identify limiting factors. In other words, what factor is limiting your progress that a new habit would help to overcome? Examples would include lack of daily exercise or lack of water intake.
It also includes a section to write down the behavioural goal (new habit) you intend to introduce to create a new habit. Writing things down makes them ‘real’ and keeps them front of mind. It also helps you consider what your habit loop will look like when you create this habit; the cue, routine, and reward.
2) A Success / Consistency Log – to help you log the days you successfully completed your new habit which greatly improves your chances of success.
The recommended time frame in this log is 66-days, presented as a ’66-day challenge’. Many sources will quote a significantly shorter period to successfully create a new habit, but we recommend sticking with the full 66 days to maximise your chances of integrating this new habit into your life.
Simply place a large red cross in the calendar for each day you successfully complete your behaviour goal. This method works so well because as a chain of red crosses starts to form, we don’t want to break it (with some studies suggesting doing so can actually cause feelings of pain!).
Complete this behavioural goal for the full 66 days (or as close to it as you can) and there’s a very high probability this behaviour will become automatic and habitual.
>> You Can Download Your Habit Tracking Worksheet Here
>> You Can Download Your Consistency Log Worksheet Here
I highly recommend using both of these resources as your system to ensuring your success in creating your new healthy habits, which will help you finally achieve (and exceed) your health and fitness goals.