ESTABLISHING NEW HABITS

11. September 2018 / general
resilience

In my last blog (link) I wrote that we humans are creatures of habit and I explained why this makes it difficult for us to break the habit loop. A lot of effort and determination are needed to avoid certain patterns of behavior and – most importantly – to replace them with new habits. Today, I will tell you how this works and I will give you some practical tips.

“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs one step at a time,” Mark Twain once said. So be prepared: Trying to break a habit won’t be a piece of cake – or rather, a piece of chocolate, if you recall one of the examples from my last blog. First and foremost, the process takes a long time – an average of 66 days, as scientists at University College London (UCL) have discovered. The actual amount of time needed varies enormously, however: The individuals participating in the UCL study took between 18 and 254 days to establish a new habit. Today, I will tell you more about how best to achieve this and share some useful tips. In other words: I’ll discuss the factors that can influence the process, how well you will do and how long it will take.

As I already mentioned in my last blog, the crucial thing is to not simply break a bad habit but to replace it with a new habit that brings the same reward. Returning to the example of chocolate that I used last time: This means replacing the habit of eating chocolate with another habit that also leads to relaxation. The type of new habit you establish is a matter of individual preference – everyone needs to discover what works for them. You must simply ensure that one bad habit does not replace another, which is what happens to many smokers when they give up cigarettes and, instead, eat more sweet foods – meaning that they subsequently gain weight.

 

Three phases

The German coach Ivan Blatter has defined three phases that occur in order for an old habit to be broken and a new one to become established:

 

  1. Start phase: Breaking an old habit and creating a new one. Although this requires energy, it is often not that difficult at the beginning because you are highly motivated.
  2. Resistance: The old habit has not yet been completely broken, and the new one is not yet fully established. The initial momentum has grown weaker and the positive effects are still too small. It takes a lot of willpower to establish the new habit more and more each day – making this the most dangerous phase.
  3. Establishment: The old habit has not yet been forgotten but the new habit slowly becomes the norm and is gradually established. Increasingly, you no longer have to consciously think about practicing the new habit every day. Over time, it becomes a new automatism.

 

Before embarking on this process, it is helpful to ask yourself the following questions (according to the job portal www.karrierebibel.de and the Austrian project manager Ewald Müller):

 

As you can see from these questions, it is vital to be well prepared. Spontaneity is the main reason why only 12% of New Year’s resolutions are actually achieved.

 

Helpful tips

As a final point, I would like to share some specific tips that should hopefully help you to alter your habits:

 

 

Horace once said: “Habit is a tyrant”. I hope these two blog posts on changing habits will help you defeat your tyrant! I wish you a lot of stamina and success.

 

© Claudia Kraaz

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