Why to start a new habit with the trigger?

“Habits are defined as actions performed routinely in a certain context or situation; very often we are unaware that they are happening”

How to install the exercise habit?

As we saw in a previous blog post the habit pattern is always trigger, routine and reward but the end result of a habit varies depending on the habit created. Now that we understand how habits work, but how do we install good habits to replace bad habits?

So let's assume I want to change my habit loop from eating too many sweets to exercising more. What do I do? First, we must look at the two most important components of the 3 step habit loop, which are cue and reward and not the routine itself.  Too often the focus on changing a habit is on the routine and this is where we fall down; it is important to first examine where the cue comes from.  When and why do you reach for the sweets? Is it a particular time of day? A certain emotion? or even a particular person that is the cue that leads your brain to shortcut to the routine to seek a reward? Once you have discovered what causes you to reach for this routine you can find ways to replace one routine with another.

The solution to this dilemma is to replace the routine of eating sweets with something like doing 10 push-ups.  Initially the brain will continue to crave the original habit of eating sweets but with 30 days of repeating this new action at the time and place of the original habit will create a new neurological pathway and therefore a new habit. 

You have probably heard about dopamine, well dopamine is the very addictive chemical that is released in the brain and acts as a reward substance. In this way by constantly repeating the new action or routine we are tricking our brain into believing that the 3 step habit loop works. After repeating the new habit many times the brain will replace the routine of reaching for sweets with 10 push ups.  

Remember, that according to science a habit can only be swapped for another but never just erased. This is a powerful message in order to better understand how to exercise more and introduce positive habits in your life and change your lifestyle.

Every workout counts


Tomas Vaicelis