Healthy habits are the basis of peak wellness. Heathy habits are something we can develop. Whether the healthy habit is taking vitamins, being grateful, exercising, or eating fiber, the practice only works if it is done over and over for extended periods of time. This repetition is achieved through habit formation.
What does science say about how habits are developed ?
The brain is designed to form habits. New behaviors or tasks can be challenging. Over time, the brain “chunks” small possibly difficult behaviors into automatic routines which becomes easy or even effortless. This is a habit. Habits are adaptive and have helped us survive. Habit formation is our brain’s way of automating certain key behaviors, so more conscious attention can be paid to novel situations. If we understand how this works we can form new habits at will.
What do we need to form new habits ?
In simple terms there are three steps:
This is called a habit loop. These are well explained in Charle’s Duhigg’s book "The Power of Habit”. The cue triggers the routine, and the routine triggers anticipation of the reward. For example, my exercise routine is cued by changing into exercise clothes. From there, I go downstairs to workout, and the reward is the endorphins and the satisfaction. There is no doubt that at first, it is hard to link the steps. But it becomes easier with each cycle. To be realistic, it takes somewhere between 6 weeks and 3 months to form a new habit.
What about bad habits ? They too have cues, routines and rewards. Basically, they have to be understood in terms of their rewards, namely, what you get out of it. In many cases, smokers smoke to get a moment of peace in a busy day. This is obviously legitimate. However, the cigarette is unhealthy and chemically addictive in addition to being behaviorally addictive. It turns out we should not exactly delete bad habits since this leaves a void. Instead we are better off to overwrite them with good ones. To illustrate, a smoker could use patches to wean down on the addictive nicotine, while overwriting her smoking habit with a healthful tea drinking habit. Perhaps to make it more engaging, she would brew the tea from loose leaves. Her reward would be the moment of peace, the taste, smell, and mental clarity that followed.
My subject in this post are the cues. In simple terms, they are reminders of health habits. I decided to expand my set of reminder cards to include not only the subject of nutrition, but also the subjects of sleep, exercise, communication, and creativity. I believe these are some of the elements in total peak wellness. Here are my cue phrases so far.
- Adequate restorative sleep
- Consistent wake time
- Consistent sleep time
- Correct sleep environment
- Medical evaluation if necessary
- Start easy and short
- Warm up
- Cool down
- Value initiation over endurance
- Good gear
- Eat for exercise
- Hydrate for exercise
- Tunes for exercise
- Podcasts for exercise
- Exercise daily
- One break day per week
- Stretch after exercise
- Buddy exercise
- Track your exercise
- Explore HIT
- Include yoga
- Mix it up
- Use good form
- Consult professionals
- Get inspired through people travel and media
- Find your styles
- Express creativity in your personal space
- Make a space for your creativity
- Take time for hobbies
- Take time for Travel
- Take time for recreational reading
- Pick a hobby and learn it well
- Share your creative work
- Always work
- Honor work in and out of the home
- Chose meaningful work
- Become expert at your work
- Give work boundaries in time, space, and thought
- Do you best at work
- Communicate effectively at work
- Reach out often at work
- Play as a team
- Ask for appropriate compensation
- Breathe and think before speaking
- Use Honesty
- Use courtesy
- I statements
- Precision of speech
- Closed loop communication
- Listen more than speak
- Listen actively
- Repeat back clarification
- Acknowledge others’ point of view
- Build common ground
You can find nutrition reminders HERE discussed in a prior post. I plan to devote a few wellness Wednesday’s to the development of these reminders or cues.
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