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Triggers + Routines = Habit Change Foundation

If you’re making major changes in how you relate to food, and what you choose to put in your body, many would say you’re ‘on a diet.’

This sounds like a short term intervention, doesn’t it? Like if you’re on it now, you’ll soon be off it again.

The idea of being ‘on a diet’ carries with it the cultural assumption that once you attain some goal weight, you’ll go back to ‘normal’ eating patterns, you know, the ones that lead to the felt need to go on said diet.

This is not the mindset you’re looking for.

What if instead you saw these changes as a lifestyle modification? Now the cultural assumption is that of a long-term, sustainable set of behavior changes, right? I mean, you’re changing your whole lifestyle this time.

Which of these options sounds more appropriate to the sort of changes you want to make?

Exactly, long term and sustainable sounds like a better idea than another yo-yo diet. So how to go about making these changes stick and last into the foreseeable future?

I want to briefly look at two powerful ways to make behavior changes sticky – triggers and routines.

These ideas come from the field of psychology, and when used in tandem can provide exactly the environment you need to make behavior changes that stick.

Triggers are simply an activity you tie another activity to in order to help you remember to do it.

For example, if you were trying to remember to floss every day, you could tie that activity to brushing your teeth. That’s a simplistic example, I know, nonetheless it works.

When I was trying to get into a daily meditation habit, my trigger was finishing my morning cup of tea. As soon as it’s drained, I move to the cushion. So the trigger is finishing my tea, and the new behavior is meditating.

Routines are similar in that they consist of a series of behaviors you’ve connected, possibly by the use of triggers even if you didn’t realize it at the time,  into a series.

In the context of our topic of diet vs lifestyle – let’s use eating a good breakfast as the habit we’re trying to set. Let’s also say that you already have a stable morning routine. You get up, head to the bathroom for that subroutine, then once out of the shower you head to the kitchen for coffee.

What if you used setting up the coffee machine as the trigger for also getting out the eggs and cooking up a plate of protein to start the day strong?

Now you’re using a trigger that’s already part of a routine to help incorporate a new habit. See how it’s all intertwined? By incorporating a new habit into an existing routine using a trigger, you have that much better chance of getting the habit to stick.

This was a quick and dirty look at these two powerful behavior modifiers, and how they work together fo form the foundation for sustainable habit change. I’m working on deeper dives into each of them, expect to see that in the new year sometime.

If you’re interested in starting to work on building yourself some solid, sustainable routines, and feel like external accountability would be helpful, get in touch on the Contact page or set up your FREE Intro Session over on the Schedule page –

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2 thoughts on “Triggers + Routines = Habit Change Foundation”

  1. Pingback: Aspects of Well-Being, Part 9 - JK Wellness Coaching

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