HABITS! Positive or Negative in development. Really, we probably all have some of both! Ever notice that negative habits seem easier to establish and more difficult to break? Whereas, positive habits tend to be a bit more challenging to start and super easy to break! Have you ever thought about WHY? Both require a lifestyle change, and that is usually a little more than any of us have time for, right?!
I have never really considered habits at all until recently. This year I made a commitment to myself to read one book a month and listen to podcasts that would fill me with positive information. I guess this could be one step in the direction of creating a positive monthly habit. Well, this weekend in preparation for my trip to Nashville, I went to my Audibles wish list and downloaded a couple books. I had pre-ordered Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Stop Apologizing, so it was already waiting for me. I had several people mention Mel Robbins The 5 Second Rule, so I chose that one knowing that I would finish the other. Now, , as I am finishing Girl, Stop Apologizing the Audible version has a “bonus” clip from her Rise conference which she happened to be talking about The 5 Second Rule which is….you guessed it MY. NEXT. BOOK!
Here is a fun little side note…I highly recommend the Audible version of The Five Second Rule, because Mel herself is reading it! I don’t know about you but I like when the author reads the book better than when narrated by someone else. The author brings personality and makes it seem like they are sitting there having a conversation with you.
Anyway, back to the original inspiration of this blog. HABITS! She talks about habits and they contain three important parts. Now, what are these three parts that play a vital role in habits? First is a thought/trigger, second is an action, and third is a reward. Now, these may not be the exact words that she uses, but researching this there are several different spins by several different establishments. Therefore, use whatever words you want. You get the jist of it. I heard what she said while listening, but like anything else went in one ear and out the other. Until, I had a patient come in to the office and report that she quit smoking!. Cold turkey, quit that very day! Hmmm. So, I am curious and start asking her questions.During our conversation, I start telling her about The 5 Second Rule, and as I am trying to explain it to her I ask her if she has come up with a “substitution” for smoking. All of a sudden I find myself discussing the three parts to a habit, and it suddenly clicks! Lightbulb moment! Now, during this conversation it begins to make so much sense to me WHY people fail at creating new “Positive” habits in place of negative habits they are trying to break. My revelation led me to think the reason it is so hard is because we don’t take into account all 3 parts.
I have never smoked, so I don’t claim to know what it is like to smoke or be addicted. Just for the purpose of breaking down the three parts of a habit, this is the example we will use. What are the three parts? First, let’s work through the thought/trigger. Often times I think that stress is the trigger, however, in young people it may just be to “fit in”. Once someone has used this negative habit several times the nicotine addiction part kicks in. Second, is the action itself which is smoking the cigarette. Third, is the reward which is the feeling of stress relief that people describe, which makes them feel better. It is this reward of feeling better that makes the person want another cigarette and the vicious cycle begins. Now, back to my patient, because remember I am just putting all this together as I am talking to her and of course she asks me for an example, so what did I do? Have you ever heard the saying “fake it til you make it”? That is what I did. I told her she clearly didn’t want to use food as a replacement because that would cause weight gain. During our discussion, she had disclosed to me that she was smoking approximately 40 cigarettes a day. So, even if she was eating healthy stuff, that could turn into a whole lot of calories, making food replacement a no go for sure. She also said that she wanted to stay away from anything that would continue with the oral fixation part of it, so gum is not an option either. Smart girl right?! As I am scrambling to find something that would fit the guidelines of a habit,I came up with was this….positive affirmations.! I recommended that she record herself or better yet her kids saying positive affirmations for her to listen to when she felt the urge to have a cigarette. Now, let’s break this down the same way we did with smoking. First, we have the thought/trigger which is actually the same with smoking which is stress in this case. Second, the action in this case is going to be to listen to the positive affirmation. Third, the reward is that she will get to hear her sweet babies tell her how proud they are of her. OMG! Who wouldn’t want to listen to that 40 times a day?!
Since reading this can you come up with another way you could change a habit or create a new one? Since talking to her I got to thinking about other “rewards” she would gain by quitting smoking, she would gain time. SO. MUCH. TIME I have no idea how long it takes to actually smoke a cigarette so I researched it and several sites stated it can take anywhere between 2-10 minutes to smoke a cigarette depending on your smoking style. So, for our purpose here, I am going to use an average of 5 minutes. In this case, at 40 cigarettes a day, 5 minutes per cigarette would total 200 minutes per day. This means she would gain over three hours a day just by NOT smoking, and add years to her life. Not to mention the money she will save! According to Fair Reporters, the average cost of cigarettes in the US is $5.51 per pack which contains 20 cigarettes, so at 2 packs a day she will save approximately $4,000 per year. These can also be rewards to help change the habit but it will not likely make it easier to make the choice not to smoke on a daily basis. We are a society of instant gratification so we need that little hit of reward every time we make a choice to get us closer to our goal.
How can you use this principle to change a current habit or create a new habit in your life? I would love to hear from you!