I recently read a great book, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It reminded me of some concepts I learned in Hypnosis school that I had put in the back of my mind, rarely to be referenced again. This book reminded me of one of these concepts I really want to share with you:
A habit has 3 parts—trigger, routine (habit), and payoff.
A boss yells at an employee.-Trigger
The employee gets upset, and then runs to the break room to gobble up a candy bar. -Habit
The employee experiences a momentary calm being away from the situation and from the bad feelings stemming from being yelled at, as well as experiencing a small sugar high from the candy bar.-Payoff
The consequences of this behavior, both the short-term feelings of guilt about ingesting the candy bar and the long-term pain of being overweight, don’t seem to be enough to stop the routine from happening in most cases.
Research and experience has shown that we can do almost nothing about controlling life’s triggers. The boss is still going to yell at you, you will still feel sad and lonely sometimes, and challenging things will happen.
Fighting the trigger is almost always a losing battle, but we can address the habit.
Instead of reaching for the candy bar, it is time to take a break, do some journaling, phone a friend, or walk around the block.
Arrive home from work. -Trigger
Have a cigarette with spouse in the backyard.-Habit
Chance to decompress from a difficult day and connect with spouse before transitioning to evening routine. -Payoff
Try switching out the cigarette for a cup of tea or a glass of juice, or take a walk around the block instead. Tip: If you decide to switch out the cigarette for a glass of wine or a candy bar, know you will be back in my office dealing with a similar problem in a different form, which is fine, I would love to see you.
When I was in the process of losing 70 pounds, I would get upset and be tempted to eat. Instead of reaching for food, I would spend a couple of minutes writing angry words using very bad language in a small journal I kept in my desk at work. It really helped me let go of my upset in a healthy way. If the language wasn’t so filthy, I would publish those rants because some of them are very, very funny. Most importantly, giving myself the space to rant uncensored kept me from eating.
Figure out what your triggers are. Do what you can for them. Focus the majority of your attention on shifting the negative behaviors that are causing you problems to healthier behaviors that give you the payoff you were getting before.
It’s not always easy to figure these things out, but when you do, you will find it much easier than you thought to shift a habit. Love yourself enough to do the work you need to change.