By Jaimi Acourt
How do we break a habit?
In part 1 of breaking the habit we discussed that at some stage in your life it is likely that you will attempt to change one or more of your health behaviours. Next, using evidence-based psychological research as a reference, we will share 5 ways to maintain that behaviour change long-term.
Mindfulness is “a practical and simple practice of being present, relaxation and self-awareness”.
Over time and with regular practice, many people find that mindfulness can assist them to experience less stress/anxiety/depression and experience greater degrees of self-acceptance. By acknowledging your thoughts, emotions and feelings in a mindful way, you will begin to identify what drives your behaviours, the subsequent results and how it makes you feel. By being
aware and curious you begin to disenchant your bad or old behaviours. You will slowly become less interested in the temptations of old behaviours because you are aware of them and their resulting consequences.
PEAQ Practical Tip: Download for FREE from the app store – Headspace: Guided Meditation or Smiling Mind.
2. Maintenance Motives:
“People tend to maintain their behaviour if they have at least one sustained maintenance motive”.
Motives are important as they are driving forces for self-directed behaviour. However, motives are often associated with initial behaviour change thoughts. So to increase your chances of maintaining behaviour change and reaching your long-term goals, motives should focus on:
- Your enjoyment of behaviors and the satisfaction you get with subsequent outcomes.
- Be self-driven.
- Be in line with your personal identity, beliefs and values.
PEAQ Practical Tip: Create a mood/ inspiration board to keep you motivated and reminded of your own personal motives rather than comparing yourself to other people’s journeys.
“People tend to maintain behaviour if they successfully monitor and regulate the newly adopted behaviour and have effective strategies to overcome barriers to the performance of the new behaviour”.
Self-regulation is a tough skill to master and refers to the process of actively controlling your automatic and dominant desires. So to increase your chances of maintaining behaviour change and reaching your long-term goals, self-regulation depends on:
- Self-regulation need: The need for self-regulation fluctuates. More self-regulation is needed in the beginning when new behaviours are not yet automatic.
- Self-regulation skill: Everyone will naturally have different levels of self-regulation skill. It takes time but with repetition and consistency everyone can improve their ability to self-regulate their behaviours.
- Coping with relapse and barriers: Changing, adapting or creating new behaviours is difficult. It is not uncommon for people to temporarily fall back into old habits or face challenges along the way. It is important to prepare for that fact that you may face one or both of these circumstances along the way to reaching your long-term goals.
PEAQ Practical Tip: Write down your goals on a piece of paper and stick them around the house. Ideal locations for these goals may be the back of the toilet door or the front of your fridge! This will help you maintain accountability to the goals you have set for yourself.
“People are successful in maintaining behavior if their psychological and physical resources are plentiful”.
Individuals are more likely to initiate behaviour change at times when their psychological and physical resources are plentiful. However over time resources may change causing a disruption to newly created behaviours. Old habits are likely to creep back when resources are challenged. So to increase your chances of maintaining behaviour change and reaching your long-term goals consider the use of the following resources:
- Support systems: Surrounding yourself with people who will help keep you accountable in a positive and supportive manor is an important practical and psychological resource.
- Knowledge: Learning about different exercises, food options and recovery methods will equip you with the tools to help yourself rather than constantly depend on others. Making long-term change is based on developing a lifestyle rather than participating in fads.
- Flexibility: Accepting that things may change over time is an important psychological resource. Having a range of options to turn to when circumstances change is empowering. It will also decrease disappointment when things do not go exactly how you envisaged them and allow you to discover a new route to the same overall goal.
PEAQ Practical Tip: Create a buddy system. Pick out 1-2 people who you can help you along the way. More specifically identify what they can help you with. Maybe one person is your designated gym buddy and another is your emotional support. Use others’ strengths to make you stronger.
“People are effective with maintaining behaviours which have become habitual and are supported by automatic responses to relevant cues.”
In order to make new behaviours stick, the intention is to make consciously controlled behaviours automatic. When our cognitive resources are depleted, the rational side of our brain is the first to switch off. We then fall back into patterns of behaviour that require less cognitive effort. So to increase your chances of maintaining behaviour change and reaching your
long-term goals, consider the following keys to forming a habit:
PEAQ Practical Tip: Create a reinforcement jar. Every time you recognise yourself doing a behaviour that is helping you achieve your long-term goal put something in the jar. This will act as a visual reminder of your progress and help to reinforce the new behaviour. For added motivation use the jar as a reward e.g. Fill it with loose change or a food that you like. Once the jar is full open it and reward yourself with something. Then repeat the process.
Have you enjoyed the PEAQ Mind-Body Series? Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for an exciting announcement coming soon!