The Habit Loop: Building Positive Habits

Last Update on August 16, 2020 : Published on February 26, 2020

From the beginning of 2020, I am trying to avoid junk food and start exercising every day. But I just wasn’t able to follow through!

Why you ask? As my daily routine includes participating in food binging with old friends after work or attending someone’s birthday. Or other times, I am going through hectic work schedules, barely thinking to eat on time. Every time I face such situations, I realized that I was making empty promises that I could stick to my health schedules. I was so confused on how to muster the willpower to eat healthy and start exercising every day.

Until a couple of days ago, my bulging tummy and droopy shoulders reminded how deep I was in the quagmire of my unhealthy eating behavior. This led me to research about the concept of ‘The Habit Loop’.

If you too find the above situation familiar, it would definitely be worthwhile to talk about the concept of habit loops and how can we build positive habits.

Habit Loop

The Concept of Habit Loop

According to the book of Charles Duhigg “The Power of Habit”, habit loop is a framework for understanding what causes us to engage in certain behaviors and offers a guide to exploring different ways that you can change them.

You might be thinking that changing habits is easy. But, it’s not that easy. As there are various habits,  perceptions and their changing patterns are hard to pinpoint.

Therefore, the concept comprises of three major components: a cue, a routine, and a reward.

habit loop

The Cue

Cue is anything that activates the behavior– it can be anything related to executing the action. Let’s think of the first thing we do every morning. Brushing our teeth? Go to the bathroom?

In this situation, the cue of waking up puts our brain in automation mode and we begin ourselves engaging in behavior we’re accustomed to performing.

The Routine

Routine is the behavior that we either want to reinforce or change.

Like, maybe you want to quit drinking alcohol or start gaming.

The Reward

An optimistic reinforcement that we get from engagement in the behavior is the reward. It is the reason that the action becomes a habit.

The reward can be anything that satisfies the craving, like, from feeling a sense of relief from drinking alcohol. According to the Duhigg, we should be focusing on the cue and the reward.

Realize the Habits:

We understand that it’s not simple to isolate the cue and the reward which are the part of life now. The only way to achieve is to “go slow”.

In “The Power of Habit”, the writer was aware that this was the only practical way to change our habits.

Therefore, sit back, relax and identify the rewards and motivation which are driving such behaviors. Try to experiment with different factors and identify your cravings.

The concept of Habit Loop

In my case, I found that I eat snacks a lot because I am hungry, looking for something novel or want to relieve stress or maybe all three factors.

Later, I found that hunger was driving my habit, I wasn’t actually hungry. I suggest you do it a few times and you’ll understand the reward.

Bring the change slowly

Duhigg stated in the book that the exact science of behavioral change is complicated, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to effect beneficial change in our lives. I personally experienced that when I started going gym at the beginning of 2020, I actually started with too big. I got caught in the moment and wanted to pursue a new goal. But, I forgot that lasting changes take time to build.

Charles Duhigg in the book suggested starting slowly. If you want to build a habit of exercising, start by doing it for only 5-10 minutes. This is referred to as “Minimum Viable Effort”. I know exercising for only 5-10 minutes sounds weird. But this actually works!

How Habits Work

The habits just don’t change the behavior, but fundamentally changes the way we see ourselves. If you’re thinking to change the habits, don’t chase every bit of positive change. Go slow and win the race.

Call for Action

If you want to be live more purposefully and productively, go read the book “The power of habit” wherein the writer has extracted the basic principles of being more efficient and effective.

Identify Your Habit Loops

A word from Calm Sage

It’s high time to change those habits which are a behavior now. Follow the rule of Charles Duhigg.

The Cue—The Routine—The Reward

And add more positivity to your life.

I hope you like this article. For more such motivational and informational content, follow Calm Sage on all social media platforms. And most importantly, do not forget to smile! ?

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About The Author

Aayushi Kapoor
Aayushi Kapoor

Aayushi is a Content Creator at Calm Sage. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Food Technology and a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Her constant interest in the improvement of mental health, nutrition, and overall wellness embarked upon her career as a “full-time educational writer.” She likes to make an asynchronous connection with her readers. Her mantra for living life is "What you seek is seeking you".

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