We all have habits, some good and some not so good. These are behaviours that we have learned and that are almost automatic. And most of us have a habit we’d like to break or one we’d like to develop.
For most people, it takes about four weeks for a new behaviour to become routine or habitual. The following steps can make it easier to establish a new behaviour pattern.
1. The first step is to set a goal
Especially if you are trying to break or give up a habit, try to frame your goal as a positive statement. For example, instead of saying, “I will stop snacking at night,” say, “I will practice healthy eating habits.” You should also put your goal in writing. Writing it down on paper will help you commit. It may also help if you share your goal with someone you trust.
2. Decide on a replacement behaviour
If your goal is to develop a new habit, then your replacement behaviour will be the goal itself. This step is very important when you are trying to break a habit. If you want to give up a habit, you must have a better behaviour to put in its place. Otherwise, the old behaviour pattern will return.
3. Learn your triggers and be aware of them
Behaviour patterns do not exist independently. Often one habit is connected to another part of your regular routine. In the snacking example, the trigger might be watching TV or reading in the evening. You automatically reach for a bag of chips while watching TV. Many people who smoke automatically light up a cigarette after eating. Think about when and why you do what you want to give up.
4. Send reminders to yourself
You can do this by leaving yourself notes in the places where the behaviour usually occurs. Or you can leave yourself a note on the mirror, refrigerator, computer monitor, or other places you will see it regularly. You can also ask a family member or work colleague to remind you of your goal with a specific phrase.
5. Get help and support from someone
This is pretty obvious. Any task is easier when you have help. It works even better if you can partner with someone who has the same goal.
6. Write affirmations every day
Write your sentence in the present tense (as if it has already happened) and write it ten times a day for twenty-one days. In this way, your goal will become ingrained in your subconscious mind, which will not only remind you to practice the new behaviour but also keep you focused and motivated.
7. Reward yourself for your progress at specific intervals
Focus on your goal day by day, but give yourself a small reward after one, three, and six months. The rewards don’t have to be big or expensive, and you should try to find something that is related to the goal in some way. This way you will have an incentive and extra motivation.
Of course, following these steps does not guarantee success. Depending on your habit, it may take several attempts before you finally make the switch. But if you keep at it, you can do it. Good luck!