For good and bad, habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. Research suggests that about 40 percent of our behavior is repeated almost daily, and mostly in the same context. (p.7)
Better than Before, by Gretchen Rubin
The Power of Habit
I’ve finished reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and it was fascinating. There used to be a time in my life when I would have thought of habits as dry and boring. The opposite of habit would have been carefree, spontaneous, and fun to my younger self.
Nowadays though, I’m painfully aware of the internal and external chaos that can fill ones life when there is a lack of order to ones day. I’m also joyfully aware of the peace that can come from carefully choosing good habits that make our lives richer.
Cue – Routine – Reward
Our lives are full of habits – both good and bad. This book breaks down the science behind habits. It is full of the stories behind all of the research. Essentially – there is a three-step loop behind every habit:
This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering or the future:
Over time, this loop – cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward – becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.
When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision-making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically. (p. 19)
Examples of movement cues
As I read the book, I was thinking through my own cues – routines – rewards related to healthy movement. These were habits that I didn’t necessarily consciously choose to make a habit, but they have become healthy habits that keep me moving.
My established cues and routines are: Work, Stairs, Wednesdays
- Everyday I am scheduled to work, I automatically put on my tennis shoes and walk to and from work. Each way is about 1.5 miles so I can fit in 3 miles each day that I work.
- When I’m at work and I need to go up or down floors, I take the stairs. I’ve made this a non-negotiable, as Gretchen Rubin writes a lot about. I started by making going down the stairs a non-negotiable, then gradually added going up at least once a day. Now, every time I need to go up or down, I take the stairs.
- Every Wednesday I go to yoga. My workplace has free yoga classes every Wednesday. I love yoga, but haven’t necessarily found a studio or class I love in particular. This yoga class is convenient and free so now it’s become a habit.
My established rewards to the above cues and routines:
- I wrote before about 3 reasons why I love my Fitbit. At the time, I didn’t realize that the Fitbit acts to reinforce the healthy habit of movement. I can monitor how active I am, and it gives me the reward of the vibrations and lights when I hit 10,000 daily steps.
- When I take the stairs, I allow myself to take them slowly and will scroll through my Facebook feed or read an article. I know, I know, I should be more mindful of safety – but it really does make the stairs go by quickly.
- The peace that I feel after yoga is the reward itself. The intentional deep breathing and movement, as well as the last pose – savasana, or corpse pose – when you lie still on your mat are all rewards for attending.
What kind of cues-routines-rewards habit loops do you already have? How can you look for daily cues to add in daily movement?