Two Easy Tactics to Eliminate Your Bad Health Habits
In this article, I will teach you how to eliminate some of your bad health habits. I am going to help you do this by adding or removing friction and introducing good habits to existing routines.
If you’re aware of your habits you will probably feel an urge to correct them. This will apply in particular to your bad habits. But, if this is so, then why do you keep holding on to your bad habits?
In this article, I will share two easy to adapt tactics to convert a bad habit into a good habit. Myself, I recently eliminated two bad health habits within weeks by using these tactics. And yes, I am going to share both of these two bad habits including the weird solutions I used to eliminate them.
Why do your bad habits keep coming back?
In 2016 I read my first book about habits. That book is called “The Power of Habit — Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg and was published in 2011. The author explains in a simplified way how habits work. To be more specific, he describes habits as a routine: Cue/Trigger, Routine, and Reward.
Later, in 2018, James Clear published his book “Atomic Habits”. It adopted the same framework but added a new step: craving. When craving is combined with cue/trigger, it forms a lethal combination for bad habits. Response and routine are pretty similar in this sense.
How cues and cravings fuel your bad health habits
It can be a daily challenge to resist cravings. One of the best-known cravings is to seek relief. Based on research and my own experience, stress is one reason why we seek relief. In this example, relief acts as a ‘reward’ in the framework by James Clear. Another factor that adds fuel to the fire is that I, like many other people, have a higher craving for sugar after a busy workday.
“The human brain evolved to prioritize immediate rewards over delayed rewards.”
― James Clear (Author of Atomic Habits)
And with these cravings, you’ll need a high level of discipline and motivation to not end up with a bad habit. Commonly known as willpower. Research proved that willpower will always lose to your habits. In reality, you will likely face the following two situations:
- You’ll need to decide to withhold yourself from something (such as eating a piece of candy that you see in front of you).
- You need to decide to start an activity (such as exercising).
Your brain, when triggered by a cue and persuaded by a craving, will go into automatic mode and respond with a routine to end up with the reward. It will trigger in particular for an instant reward.
An example of a trigger that is followed by a craving is the following: when I open up my kitchen drawer and I see a chocolate bar. Before you know it, at least half the bar will have disappeared in my stomach.
But there is good news too. Namely, that you can use cues, cravings, and responses in your advantage to transform your bad health habits.
How do you transform a bad habit?
Personally, I use two methods to eliminate or improve habits. Firstly, I increase or decrease friction. Secondly, I use the cue and response in my advantage to introduce new good habits to an existing routine
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”
― Charles Duhigg (Author of The Power of Habit)
Even though there are, of course, many different tactics, I find that from my experience, the tactics below work well and are easy to adopt.
Tactic 1: How I use friction for my habits
The first method is to add friction. In practice, this means one should make it harder or even impossible to trigger a bad habit.
To continue with the chocolate bar example: I added friction by hiding the bars and I put them in a spot at the kitchen drawer that I don’t use daily. It had a direct impact. After 3 days I noticed that I had fewer cravings and consumed fewer bars.
Aside from increasing friction, you can also decrease friction. Imagine this.
You’re lying in bed on a Saturday morning and you had planned to go for a run. Comfortably lying there, it can be tough to act on it and go for a run. In this case, I will help myself by lowering friction. Namely, I put my running gear and shoes next to my bed the evening before, ready for the next day.
Make the cue/trigger clear and present in case of a good habit and invisible for a bad habit.
Tactic 2: How I add a routine to an existing routine
This method stimulates good habits by providing one big benefit. Namely, when faced with a decision you don’t need as high a level of motivation and discipline anymore.
Example: When I make coffee or tea, I also add a mini-workout, such as squats. A benefit of working from home nowadays. This way, I combined a new habit with a daily routine.
Doing this routine is so easy. It awards you with an energy boost, and afterward, you’ll be ready to get back to work.
Adding new routines gives you lots of options. For instance, you can add new routines to your daily, weekly, and monthly routines. You relate one routine to another one to create a new good habit. After you perform your new routine a few times, the next time your brain will do it for you on automatic mode. This eliminates the need for a high level of willpower.
How I use both tactics to solve two major bad health habits
I have been aware of some of my bad health habits and, therefore, have been using both tactics for years now. I increased and decreased friction, and introduced new routines to existing ones. With these tactics, I transformed two health habits within weeks.
Eating (too much) sugar
- Move all sugary foods like candy and chocolate bars out of sight.
- Set up a healthy alternative. While making my breakfast I also make a bowl of fresh fruit and vegetables. Then, I keep this bowl on my living room table or desk during the morning. It lowers friction to eat healthy because the healthy snacks are always within hand’s reach.
- Don’t do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You will buy less candy and junk food. Also, you should use a shopping list. Fill your list with healthy ingredients for tasty and healthy breakfast, lunch, snacks, and diner recipes. A good alternative is to buy your groceries online.
- For my sweet tooth moments, I use a backup with Kickstarter project Kitchen Safe. It’s a box with a timer. Once the safe seals it’s impossible to open until the timer reaches zero. You can set timers up to multiple days. Perfect for one cheat snack per week.
Unmotivated to do your planned exercise
- Don’t set yourself up with high targets for time, distance, or frequency. Start with a small goal so you’ll need less motivation. For example, when I go for a run I begin with just a few kilometers as a target. Halfway I notice I want to continue and raise the bar to end up with at least double amount of kilometers.
- Put your running gear in sight. Personally, I put them in front of the main door or bedroom.
- After showering I do a quick 5-minute workout before getting dressed. The reason I’m not exercising before showering is that I’m too sleepy to do my workout.
These are two of my health habits I transformed. And I’m planning to keep updating it with some weird tactics to further improve it.
Which bad health habits are you gonna transform?
With this information, you’re a step closer to being aware of your health habits and you know of two tactics to transform them. What is your most annoying bad health habit? And did you transform any of your habits into a good one? How?
“The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. It’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop.”
― James Clear (Author of Atomic Habits)