Send Your Habits to Boot Camp
Did you know that most of your habits, you don’t even think about? If you are familiar with the brain or psychology, you may be aware of two different systems of the brain. Commonly referred to as system one and system two.
System one is a part of the brain that functions automatically, perhaps based on memory, impulsively, or intuitively. It is thought that most of our habits are a function of this system of the brain which includes up to 95% of the decisions we make. Effortlessly, we DO. We wake up in the morning, maybe you set your coffee machine first, maybe you open your blinds first, maybe you head to the bathroom first or flick on the lights and turn on the shower first thing. Think about it tomorrow when you wake up, were you even aware of what you were doing as you were doing it?
Now in this context of system two, we are going to look closer at your nutritional habits with the thought of “sending your habits to boot camp”. Breaking them down and then building them back up better, and more improved.
Habits are very hard to break and form, but once we do life is so much easier. Everyone of you reading this will have different habits and different impulses around your habits. You’ll also respond differently depending on your individual beliefs about who you are and what identifies you. For instance, if you like to kid with your friends that you don’t workout and that you eat fast food, that may play into the impulses of being more likely to skip a workout, or have less of a consistent routine when it comes to your workouts. You may also be more likely to justify or gravitate towards fast food options more often or in a pinch.
This is where we begin to “put our minds to it”. We can start to look more closely at the habits we currently keep, and we can start to bring more awareness to those habits. We can involve the other, more rational and logical thinking parts of our brain (system two) to help us figure out how to break those habits and remake them to work for us, not against.
Forming new habits thoughtfully involves the following:
- CUE: Something that triggers a craving. A bad feeling. Feeling stressed after a long day.
- CRAVING: The motivation or reasoning for the action. IE: Wanting to change that bad feeling after a long stressful day.
- RESPONSE: The action. Pouring a glass of wine.
- REWARD: Satisfaction. We’ve quenched the discontent from the cue. We are hard wired to notice rewards, so if the reward is great, we are more likely to repeat the cycle. IE: This wine tastes great and I can finally relax and forget those bad emotions.
How we break down negative habits:
Its a technique of mindfulness that teaches you to overcome an urge or a habit. What I love about this, is that its all about progress over perfection. Urge Surfing compares an urge to a wave. The crest of the wave is an urge at its highest intensity. With patience and awareness, you learn to surf it. Feeling the urge, noticing the urge, thinking about the urge and riding it out, until the urge dissipates. Research shows that urges or cravings last about 15-20 minutes and the more often that you feed the urge, the stronger it becomes. As an example, lets say most nights you eat dinner and soon after, you NEED to start drinking beer, or NEED a bowl of Ice cream. While every so often this will not derail your results, giving into a nightly urge will. Urge surfing I suppose, is kind of meditating on it. Do you NEED it? How did the rest of your day go? Do you feel hunger? What are some other things that you could do that would align with how you identify yourself?
Think about it. Even if you aren’t feeling strong enough to change the behavior right now, I want you to design the behavior, to be able to add thought around it. For example, if 5 o’clock hits and you pour a glass of wine, and that turns into a bottle, what about designing the behaviors to take your body off autopilot? Putting the bottle in a different place than usual. Attaching an “If, Then” behavior. “If” I get another glass, “then” I drink a glass of water first.”
Changing the Environment
If you tackle emails first thing in the morning and then find yourself pacing around the kitchen. Change it up! Maybe you go outside and pace around the patio, maybe you take a short walk up your street. Your reward is some Vitamin Sun!
Talking About It
We are in an awesome position at the moment in our nutrition refocus in that we have each other in our Focus Group. I for one, truly believe that there is a lot of success to be had in leaning on others for support. May take some bravery, but it may also influence others in a beneficial way as wel. If you have a habit you’d like to change, evolve, break, or build then perhaps you’ll throw it out to us or someone that you trust?
How we build up positive habits:
Think about why you have made certain decisions like joining our nutrition refocus, or joining our gym or doing things that will benefit a healthier you. Now think about the habits that you participate in that could be holding you back from the outcomes that you want. How can we rebuild those habits in a fresh and functional way?
Building on something healthful and consistent. Earlier, I referred to an “If I, Then I” or “When I, Then I”. Think of something you’d like to do. Can you commit to it consistently? Can you attach a behavior to it? One of our focuses in our nutrition group is to drink enough water. An example of using a cue to build a healthier habit would be: When I wake up, I drink a glass of water. If I workout, I drink a 16oz water bottle. Remember that consistency is the key to strengthening or forming the habit.
Using the water example. How can you strengthen this behavior by making it fun and exciting? How can you build it so that you crave it?
Here’s an idea: Enlist a friend to join you. For example, if this is a focus of mine then every time I text you, “CHEERS!” it’s time to take a drink of water. Currently a lot of us are working from home so yell it to your significant other, yell it to your cat, whatever works. No shame in your game!
Again, how can you make this something you’ll do consistently? Talk about it. Enlist others, get creative. How about you start each day with a “CHEERS” text to someone with a similar goal? That ensures that each day consistently starts off strong because we know that good habits lead to other good habits.
Well for one thing, your consistency is building you healthier habits and that’s a reward in and of itself. But let’s stay on the “CHEERS” text idea. Before you know it, you started subconsciously drinking more water. Then you found that your hydration status was consistent and your performance and your recovery in and around your workouts were better. Then you started feeling like you had less cravings throughout the day and that your hunger was more stable. Also, you forgot about how you NEEDED beer and ice cream at night because you were satisfied and hydrated. AND your friend, you know the one you text every morning to help you remember to drink water? Yes, that one! Well, you influenced them to drink water too.
Wow, aren’t you are quite the hero.
There is no reason that habit formation needs to be something we dread. Break it down into simple steps, be truthful about where you stand on certain things, and don’t be afraid to get others involved for some increased fun and accountability. If you’re interested, make sure to keep an eye out for Nutrition Coaching opportunities.