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Habits of A Badass

Want Habits of A Badass? 

Psychology Today describes habit formation as the process by which new behaviors become automatic. It goes on to state that ‘the behavioral patterns we repeat most are literally etched into our neural pathways.’

So, your brain made you do it, right?!
Well, you made the choices that trained your brain to sleep in or pick up that extra beer. Or, on the flip side, it made you show up for yoga or wake up at 5 am for your run. As it’s loyal servant to you, the brain responds with an astounding, yes! 

To be more technical, an article published in Medical Daily discusses the formation of the Habit Loop - Trigger, Routine of behavior, then Reward.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, once the Reward stage occurs, that is the brains ‘lightbulb’ moment to recall the automatic behavior (insert good or bad habit here). The next occurence your brain doesn’t have to work so hard, it’s already imprinted for the next trigger; brain reacts, reserving its energy for other things. The brain is so smart!  

What are your current habits? What day-in day-out behaviors do you have on repeat? Are they positive or detrimental? 

Badasses train their brains. 

You’ve also heard an umpteen million times the inspiring statement that it takes only 21 days to ditch a habit; a spiraled statement by Dr. Maltz that was published in 1960. The truth is, that wasn’t based on an actual study, but simple observations. 

A study done in 2009 by Phillippa Lally for the European Journal of Social Psychology revealed that on average, participants formed new habits with a range of 18-254 days.

Yikes. I’m not here to discourage you, I promise! 

It’s actually a great number to see, because some people who haven’t gotten that new habit to stick (like grandma's oatmeal to your ribs) get highly discouraged, and give up. 

It took me 18 attempts at quitting smoking to actually give it up. 18! 
Quitting cigs makes you have to shift a myriad of habits because your schedule tends to revolve around cigarette time. That’s why it took me forever. Eventually, I trained my brain...and my body. My new habits became exercise and gum chewing. P.S. I have since given up my Orbit addiction.

A great point that the study highlights is that if you miss a chance to step into your habit a day (eg, you skipped your run), it will not affect your overall new habit formation process. Phew! Missing 3 days...well... that will likely throw you off track. You’re in need of stronger motivation. 

You will come across a variety of blogs and books about getting rid of bad habits, but I want to focus on a technique that has been valuable to me and what I use to coach some of my clients with:

Inclusion over Exclusion. 
Inclusion is the action or state of including, but typically, we have been trained into exclusion:

You told yourself you can't have a cookie.
You can’t lay on the couch and watch Netflix.
You can’t have a smoke.

Do you want to to DO IT ALL?! Right now?!

Focus on Inclusion over Exclusion.

Include more vegetables into each meal instead of banning cookies.
Include time for a game or social activity with friends or family instead of couch time.
Do 50 jumping jacks every time you want to have a cigarette

The power of Inclusion does 2 things:

  1. It shifts your mental state of mind into awareness and retrains your brain - a powerful way to create your life by design.
  2. Your emotional state is relieved of labels that are “bad” or “unwanted” which gives positive momentum for success. 

As you open up to new habit formation, you will begin to etch new waves of information into the brain for which route to take. What at first will feel like a 5 year old throwing a temper tantrum will begin to transform. 

There is no set amount of days that this will take you for your particular circumstance. The most important aspect is that if you are serious about shifting habits, you must make a continual effort until you reach your desired outcome. Don’t give up on yourself!

The best way to get started is to take inventory of what habits you currently practice (positive or negative.) This gives you a clear picture of what areas you have for improvement or what areas you are nailing it in. Where are you winning and where can you use a tune up?