Monthly Archives: November 2014

How to Make New Habits Stick for Good –

How to Make New Habits Stick for Good –By James Clear

Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits.

  • How in shape or out of shape you are? A result of your habits.
  • How happy or unhappy you are? A result of your habits.
  • How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits.

What you repeatedly do (i.e. what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray.

But what if you want to improve? What if you want to form new habits? How would you go about it?

Turns out, there’s a helpful framework that can make it easier to stick to new habits so that you can improve your health, your work, and your life in general. Let’s talk about that framework now…

The 3 R’s of Habit Change


1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)

2. Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)

3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)

I call this framework “The 3 R’s of Habit Change,” but I didn’t come up with this pattern on my own. It’s been proven over and over again by behavioral psychology researchers. I first learned about the process of habit formation from Stanford professor, BJ Fogg.

More recently, I read about it in Charles Duhigg’s best–selling book, The Power of Habit. Duhigg’s book refers to the three steps of the “Habit Loop” as cue, routine, reward. BJ Fogg uses the word trigger instead of cue. And I prefer reminder since it gives us the memorable “3 R’s.” Regardless, don’t get hung up on the terminology.

+ It’s more important to realize that there’s a lot of science behind the process of habit formation, and so we can be relatively confident that your habits follow the same cycle, whatever you choose to call it.

What a Habit Looks Like When Broken Down Before we get into each step, let’s use the 3 R’s to break down a typical habit.

For example, answering a phone call…

1. Your phone rings (reminder). This is the reminder that initiates the behavior. The ring acts as a trigger or cue to tell you to answer the phone. It is the prompt that starts the behavior.

2. You answer your phone (routine). This is the actual behavior. When your phone rings, you answer the phone.

3. You find out who is calling (reward). This is the reward (or punishment, depending on who is calling). The reward is the benefit gained from doing the behavior. You wanted to find out why the person on the other end was calling you and discovering that piece of information is the reward for completing the habit. If the reward is positive, then you’ll want to repeat the routine again the next time the reminder happens.

Repeat the same action enough times and it becomes a habit. Every habit follows this basic 3–step structure.

How can you use this structure to create new habits and actually stick to them? Here’s how…

Step 1: Set a Reminder for Your New Habit- If you talk to your friends about starting a new habit, they might tell you that you need to exercise self–control or that you need to find a new dose of willpower. I disagree. Getting motivated and trying to remember to do a new behavior is the exact wrong way to go about it. If you’re a human, then your memory and your motivation will fail you. It’s just a fact. This is why the reminder is such a critical part of forming new habits.

A good reminder does not rely on motivation and it doesn’t require you to remember to do your new habit. A good reminder makes it easy to start by encoding your new behavior in something that you already do. For example, when I wrote about the secret to sticking to little healthy habits, I said that I created a new habit of flossing by always doing it after brushing my teeth. The act of brushing my teeth was something that I already did and it acted as the reminder to do my new behavior.

To make things even easier and prevent myself from having to remember to floss, I bought a bowl, placed it next to my toothbrush, and put a handful of pre–made flossers in it. Now I see the floss every time I reach for my toothbrush. Setting up a visible reminder and linking my new habit with a current behavior made it much easier to change.

No need to be motivated. No need to remember. It doesn’t matter if it’s working out or eating healthy or creating art, you can’t expect yourself to magically stick to a new habit without setting up a system that makes it easier to start.

How to Choose Your Reminder

Picking the correct reminder for your new habit is the first step to making change easier. The best way I know to discover a good reminder for your new habit is to write down two lists.

In the first list, write down the things that you do each day without fail. For example…

•Get in the shower. •Put your shoes on. •Brush your teeth. •Flush the toilet. •Sit down for dinner. •Turn the lights off. •Get into bed.

You’ll often find that many of these items are daily health habits like washing your face, drinking morning tea, brushing your teeth, and so on. Those actions can act as reminders for new health habits.

For example, “After I drink my morning tea, I mediate for 60 seconds.” In the second list, write down the things that happen to you each day without fail. For example…

•Traffic light turns red. •You get a text message. •A commercial comes on TV. •A song ends. •The sun sets.

With these two lists, you’ll have a wide range of things that you already do and already respond to each day. Those are the perfect reminders for new habits. For example, let’s say you want to feel happier. Expressing gratitude is one proven way to boost happiness.

Using the list above, you could pick the reminder “sit down for dinner” and use it as a cue to say one thing that you’re grateful for today. “When I sit down for dinner, I say one thing that I’m grateful for today.” That’s the type of small behavior that could blossom into a more grateful outlook on life in general.

Step 2: Choose a Habit That’s Incredibly Easy to Start

It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to make massive changes in your life. We watch incredible weight loss transformations and think that we need to lose 30 pounds in the next 4 weeks. We see elite athletes on TV and wish that we could run faster and jump higher tomorrow. We want to earn more, do more, and be more … right now.

I’ve felt those things too, so I get it. And in general, I applaud the enthusiasm. I’m glad that you want great things for your life and I want to do what I can to help you achieve them. But it’s important to remember that lasting change is a product of daily habits, not once–in–a–lifetime transformations.

If you want to start a new habit and begin living healthier and happier, then I have one suggestion that I cannot emphasis enough: start small. In the words of Leo Babauta, “make it so easy that you can’t say no.” How small? BJ Fogg suggests that people who want to start flossing begin by only flossing one tooth. Just one. In the beginning, performance doesn’t matter.

Become the type of person who always sticks to your new habit. You can build up to the level of performance that you want once the behavior becomes consistent. Here’s your action step: Decide what want your new habit to be. Now ask yourself, “How can I make this new behavior so easy to do that I can’t say no?”

What is Your Reward?

It’s important to celebrate. We want to continue doing things that make us feel good. And because an action needs to be repeated for it to become a habit, it’s especially important that you reward yourself each time you practice your new habit.

For example, if I’m working towards a new fitness goal, then I’ll often tell myself at the end of a workout, “That was good day.” Or, “Good job. You made progress today.” If you feel like it, you could even tell yourself “Victory!” or “Success!” each time you do your new habit. I haven’t done this myself, but some people swear by it.

•Floss one tooth. “Victory!” •Eat a healthy meal. “Success!” •Do five pushups. “Good work!” Give yourself some credit and enjoy each success.

Related note: Only go after habits that are important to you. It’s tough to find a reward when you’re simply doing things because other people say they are important.

Where to Go From Here

In general, you’ll find that these three steps fit almost any habit. The specifics, however, may take some work. You might have to experiment before you find the right cue that reminds you to start a new habit. You might have to think a bit before figuring out how to make your new habit so easy that you can’t say no. And rewarding yourself with positive self–talk can take some getting used to if you’re not someone who typically does that. It’s all a process, my friend.

[Ed Note: James is a writer, photographer and avid weightlifter. His mission is to help as many people as he can by showing them simple but effective ways of changing their habits.  ]

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Dogs of War and Paws & Stripes

Are you a dog lover?
Do you know someone that was in combat?

Here’s a cool show starting on A & E

 

http://www.aetv.com/dogs-of-war

service dogs

Resources

http://www.aetv.com/dogs-of-war/exclusives/resources

Paws and Stripes, the shelter they work with at Animal Humane New Mexico, and lots more.

What is Paws and Stripes?

Paws and Stripes was founded in 2010 by Jim and Lindsey Stanek after Jim was injured during his third deployment to Iraq. During the nine months he spent at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Lindsey noticed how therapy dogs at the hospital eased the effects of his disabilities.

Their mission now is to assist U.S. military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), as well as local shelter dogs, by providing integrative service dog training and mental health support to veterans and their families.

15 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life

I love TED Talks.

Then I found this link.

Check it out!

http://mashable.com/2013/07/08/ted-talks-change-your-life/

15 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life

Frey Freyday – Anxious

 (Frey Freyday is simply a bunch of inspirational, motivational and other quotes meant to make you think, reflect, smile, even laugh a bit. Hopefully helpful, useful stuff..)

Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. –Jesus Christ

True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.-Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

We should not fret for what is past, nor should we be anxious about the future; men of discernment deal only with the present moment.-Chanakya

The fearful unbelief is unbelief in yourself.-Thomas Carlyle

The mind that is anxious about the future is miserable.-Lucius Annaeus Seneca

When adversity strikes, that’s when you have to be the most calm. Take a step back, stay strong, stay grounded and press on.-LL Cool J

– After a storm comes a calm.-Matthew Henry

Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.-Dalai Lama

Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along.-Paramahansa Yogananda

Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options.-Simon Sinek

Why Saying Is Believing — The Science Of Self-Talk

A great article for women and girls – ….

Why Saying Is Believing — The Science Of Self-Talk

 http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/10/07/353292408/why-saying-is-believing-the-science-of-self-talk

From the self-affirmations of Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live to countless videos on YouTube, saying nice things to your reflection in the mirror is a self-help trope that’s been around for decades, and seems most often aimed at women. The practice, we’re told, can help us like ourselves and our bodies more, and even make us more successful — allow us to chase our dreams!

Impressed, but skeptical, I took this self-talk idea to one of the country’s leading researchers on body image to see if it’s actually part of clinical practice.

David Sarwer is a psychologist and clinical director at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania. He says that, in fact, a mirror is one of the first tools he uses with some new patients. He stands them in front of a mirror and coaches them to use gentler, more neutral language as they evaluate their bodies.

“Instead of saying, ‘My abdomen is disgusting and grotesque,’ ” Sarwer explains, he’ll prompt a patient to say, ” ‘My abdomen is round, my abdomen is big; it’s bigger than I’d like it to be.’ ”

The goal, he says, is to remove “negative and pejorative terms” from the patient’s self-talk. The underlying notion is that it’s not enough for a patient to lose physical weight — or gain it, as some women need to — if she doesn’t also change the way her body looks in her mind’s eye.

This may sound weird. You’re either a size 4 or a size 8, right?

Not mentally, apparently. In a 2013 study from the Netherlands, scientists watched women with anorexia walk through doorways in a lab. The women, they noticed, turned their shoulders and squeezed sideways, even when they had plenty of room.

 

“Their internal representation — their brain perspective on their body — is that the body is much, much bigger than, in fact, it is,” says Dr. Branch Coslett, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He says studies like this one aren’t actually new.

At least as far back as 1911, for example, the aptly named Dr. Henry Head and Dr. Gordon Morgan Holmes — two neurologists — published a series of papers exploring the body-brain connection. But they didn’t look at people with anorexia.

“They used an example of the kind of hats that were then in vogue, which were these big hats with big feathers at the top,” says Coslett. Holmes and Head noticed that when women who habitually wore the big hats walked through doors, they ducked — “even when not wearing the hat,” Coslett says.

Their mental self was wearing the hat, even if their physical self wasn’t — just as anorexic women in the Netherlands study saw themselves carrying a bigger body. Neuroscientists are still trying to understand exactly how this works.

It’s clear that we all have an internal representation of our own bodies, Coslett says. We need that very specific sense of ourselves to understand how much space we take up — so we can walk and not bump into things, or perform simple tasks, like reaching out a hand and picking up a coffee cup. Studies show that this internal sense of oneself is a powerful thing. Research on what neurologists call motor imagery indicates that the same neurological networks are used both to imagine movement, and to actually move. And imagining a movement over and over can have the same effect on our brains as practicing it physically — as well as lead to similar improvements in performance.

What Coslett wants to understand — and he’s just starting to study this now — is how people with eating disorders get their mental image of their body so wrong, adding inches to their thighs, butts and bellies. By understanding exactly how this misperception works, he hopes to gain insight into how to bring closer to reality the mental body image of someone struggling with anorexia or bulimia — or just a poor self-image.

So far, evidence that the words you say to yourself could change the way you see yourself is still limited to the self-reports of patients; and the effect on brain physiology hasn’t yet been studied. But Coslett thinks self-talk probably does shape the physiology of perception, given that other sensory perceptions — the intensity of pain, for example, or whether a certain taste is pleasing or foul, or even what we see — can be strongly influenced by opinions, assumptions, cultural biases and blind spots.

“What we find,” Kross says, “is that a subtle linguistic shift — shifting from ‘I’ to your own name — can have really powerful self-regulatory effects.”

In other words, it changes the way you feel and behave. Kross had this idea when he was driving in the car and did something “not smart,” he says — like running a red light.

“And I immediately said to myself, ‘Ethan, you idiot!’ ” he recalls.

But because he’s a psychologist, “Ethan, you idiot!” turned into, “Huh, that’s interesting. Why did I talk to myself in the third person, using my own name?” He soon noticed other people doing the same thing.

When LeBron James, for example, talked about his decision to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat back in 2010, Koss noticed that James created distance from himself in his use of language.

“I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James,” the star athlete said, “and what LeBron James was going to do to make him happy.” Take a look:

YouTube

Malala Yousafzai did the same thing in an interview with The Daily Show‘s John Stewart, when she recounted (around 4:22 minutes into this clip) wrestling internally with her decision to speak out against the Taliban.

Koss decided to do an experiment to see what would happen if nonfamous people were instructed to try the same technique.

He asked volunteers to give a speech — with only five minutes of mental preparation. As they prepped, he asked some to talk to themselves and to address themselves as “I.” Others he asked to either call themselves “you,” or to use their own names as they readied their speeches.

Kross says that people who used “I” had a mental monologue that sounded something like, ” ‘Oh, my god, how am I going do this? I can’t prepare a speech in five minutes without notes. It takes days for me to prepare a speech!’ ”

People who used their own names, on the other hand, were more likely to give themselves support and advice, saying things like, “Ethan, you can do this. You’ve given a ton of speeches before.” These people sounded more rational, and less emotional — perhaps because they were able to get some distance from themselves.

I actually tried this. And I noticed, when I talked to myself using my own name, I got some visual distance, in my mind’s eye: As I talked, I actually saw myself in the room where I was sitting, from a fly-on-the-wall perspective.

The same thing happens to other people. “We’ve done studies that look at exactly that phenomenon,” says Kross. “And your experience is borne out by our data. It’s almost like you are duping yourself into thinking about you as though you were another person.”

Being an “outsider” in this way has real benefits: As LeBron James might tell you, with some distance, it’s a lot easier to be kinder to that other person.


This story is part of Morning Edition’s periodic series, The Changing Lives of Women.

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