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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Ellis

Why your habits may be keeping you stuck in a loop.

We all have habits some are good some not so. Bad habits can be defined as undesirable patterns of behaviour. Examples of this include smoking, procrastinating, eating sugary foods, overspending and even nail biting.

Deep down we often know these habits are not good for us and that we would like to change but somehow, we keep going and the habits persist.

This is because habits happen in a cycle, a so-called habit loop, that comprises 4 parts. The cue, the craving, the response and the reward.

The cue - This first step is what triggers your brain to start a behaviour or thought.

The craving - this is the motivation behind every habit. It's not necessarily the habit itself you're craving but the reward it delivers. By acting out the habit you will experience a feeling or change of state and that's really what you're craving. For example, for a smoker it's not really smoking or a cigarette you crave but more the feeling of relief that it gives you. Nearly every craving comes from a desire to change your internal state (what you're feeling).

Response - this stage is the actual habit. The actual act of doing or thinking. So actually, having a cigarette, eating the sweets or spending the money.

Reward - This stage is the end goal of all habits. This may be a sense of satisfaction, or temporary contentment. We chase the rewards to feel this or even to learn what actions are worth us repeating in future as they give us pleasure.

These 4 stages form a continuous loop. The cue is about noticing the reward, The craving is about wanting the reward. The response about obtaining the reward. Then when we get the reward, we want it again and again and again.

If any of the stages are not sufficiently strong the behaviour will not become a habit. But when they are strong enough in combination, they take a split second to complete with our minds constantly seeking out sources of pleasure.

You can use this knowledge to help change behaviour you no longer want to keep breaking bad habit loops and creating new ones.

To break a bad habit using the 4 stages of the habit loop as follows.

  • Make the cue invisible

  • Make the craving unattractive

  • Make the response difficult

  • Make the reward unsatisfying

To flip that around and create a good habit do the following.

  • Make the cue obvious

  • Make the craving attractive

  • Make the response easy

  • Make the reward satisfying

Your habits are yours to change! The loops can be broken and even tapped into to work in your favour.

Liz x

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