A habit is hard to break.

Old Proverb

You’ve probably heard that many times. But do you know why?

Well, a habit is a behaviour that has become nearly or completely involuntary due to continuous repetition. This behaviour becomes so ingrained that it is triggered without conscious awareness and elicit an automatic response.

Because of this nature, it is said that a habit is hard to break. Unless…

… you make a conscious effort to rewrite the pattern.

But in order to rewrite a pattern, you must first understand it.

Which brings me to the habit loop.

It is important to understand that habits always happen in a cycle.

  1. First, there is the cue. A thing or an event that trigger a response in your mind.
  2. Then, comes the craving. A craving is a urge to do something.
  3. A craving is usually followed by the behaviour. The action that will satisfy the craving.
  4. And finally, there is the reward, or the satisfaction of the craving.

Let me give you an example.

You walk into the kitchen and see the cookie jar. Immediately, your mouth start watering and you feel an urge to grab a cookie. As you eat the cookie, you feel instant gratification (compliments to the rush of dopamine that was just released in your brain).

This wouldn’t be a big deal if it was a one off experience. Except that it’s happened so many times that now every time you set foot in the kitchen, you feel an uncontrollable desire to have a treat.

So What can you do to break this cycle?

Here are 3 strategies to help you break the habit.

Strategy #1

Hide the cue. The truth is that the cue is a visual reminder. So if you take out of sight, it will also be out of mind. This mean hiding the cookie jar in the back of the cupboard.

Strategy #2

Make it less desirable. Ok, let’s say that you keep the cookie jar on the counter top because your husband or kids love having treats around. What can you do then? Well, you could choose to buy (or make) cookies of a flavour that you don’t care much for. This way the craving won’t be as strong.

Strategy #3

Make it difficult. Another option is not having cookies in the house at all. So if you have a craving, you would have to go out and buy or make them from scratch. It’s so much work that you might convince yourself that it’s not worth it.