Switch It Up

Annette Presley
Annette Presley, your personal nutrition coach, author, and speaker helping you live your life well.

Jan 26,2018

In my last article, I talked about triggers. Knowing our triggers can help us recognize why we do what we do. When you experience the trigger, what do you do? Walk through your routines. If you get hungry every time you get in the car after work, do you have a routine of stopping at the local coffee shop or convenience store? What is your routine when you are bored at work? Do you head to the vending machine? The routine is what happens after the trigger, and this is where we can insert a new routine and change a bad habit into a healthy habit.

Our routines reward us in some way; that is why we do them. Once you know your triggers and recognize your routines, ask yourself what is in it for you. What do you get out of the routine? Satisfaction, a break from the boredom, improved energy? The reward is what makes the brain crave the routine when the trigger comes along. The craving makes it difficult to resist. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says on page 20, “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in the decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So, unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.” 

Understanding how the habit process works, is the first step to building better habits. We need to control our habits because once they are formed, we are no longer in decision making mode. Being aware of the triggers, routines and rewards gives us the ability to put a new cog in the wheel of automation and change things up a bit. You don’t have to get rid of your habits, you just need to make small changes in the routines. If you have a habit of heading to the vending machine when you are bored, try doing a few jumping jacks or find a coworker to talk to for a moment. You just need to do something to break up the boredom and hitting the vending machine isn’t the only option you have. Decide on a new routine and practice it until it becomes automatic. You don’t need a ton of willpower, you just need a little switch.

Other articles by this author