Triggers & Routines – stronger together

If you’re making major changes in how you relate to food, and what you choose to put in your body, many would say you’re “on a diet.” This sounds like a short term intervention, doesn’t it? Like if you’re on it now, you’ll soon be off it again. The idea of being ‘on a diet’ carries with it the cultural assumption that once you attain some goal weight, you’ll go back to “normal” eating patterns.

This is not the mindset you’re looking for.

What if instead you saw these changes as a lifestyle modification? Now the cultural assumption is that of a long-term, sustainable set of behavior changes, right? I mean, you’re changing your whole lifestyle this time. Which of these options sounds more appropriate to the sort of changes you want to make?

Exactly, long term and sustainable sounds like a better idea than another yo-yo diet. So how to go about making these changes stick and last into the foreseeable future?

I want to briefly look at two powerful ways to make behavior changes sticky – triggers and routines. I know, I’ve talked about them before. However they are so good, and so useful that I want to dedicate a few more words to explaining exactly how powerful these two concepts are and how they can help you.

Triggers are simply an activity you tie another activity to in order to help you remember to do it. For example, if you were trying to remember to floss every day, you could tie that activity to the activity of brushing your teeth. That’s a simplistic example, I know, nonetheless it works. When I was trying to get into a daily meditation habit, my trigger was finishing my morning cup of tea. As soon as it’s drained, I move to the cushion. So the trigger is finishing my tea, and the new behavior is meditating.

Routines are something I recently talked about here, what I wanted to do today is point out how to incorporate them with triggers to strengthen your new behavior pattern and ingrain those new habits. In the context of our topic of diet vs lifestyle – let’s use eating a good breakfast as the habit we’re trying to set. Let’s also say that you already have a stable morning routine. You get up, head to the bathroom for that subroutine, then once out of the shower you head to the kitchen for coffee. What if you used setting up the coffee machine as the trigger for also getting out the eggs and cooking up a plate of protein to start the day strong?

Now you’re using a trigger that’s already part of a routine to help incorporate a new habit. See how it’s all intertwined? By incorporating a new habit into an existing routine using a trigger, you have that much better chance of getting the habit to stick.