Assessing and Addressing Behaviours around habits.
In this article we will look at the psychology of habit formation to understand more about how we can break bad habits and replace them with healthy ones to be the best versions of ourselves as dads, leaders, friends and companions. This is an article by our guest contributor and writer, Ruby Phillips.
How to form positive habits
The definition of ‘habit formation’ in the APA Dictionary of Psychology is ‘the process by which, through repetition or conditioning, animals or humans acquire a behaviour that becomes regular and increasingly easy to perform.’
When we hear the word ‘habit’, there are often negative connotations, such as binge drinking and procrastination. Let’s not beat around the bush, we are all guilty of unhealthy and unproductive behaviours sometimes, but bad habits can begin to take their toll on your health, lifestyle and relationships. Recognising how these habits are affecting your life is the first step towards breaking them to save time, money and energy using some simple methods and practices.
One of the main theories surrounding habit formation is The Three R’s:
- Reminder: A trigger or cue in the form of an action or a feeling.
- Routine: The behaviour that is associated with the trigger.
- Reward: The reward you get for the dedication to the habit.
This system is used for positive habit formation, which could be for anything: dad life, work life, or the small things as simple as drinking more water for optimal health.
To create a habit to stay hydrated, you could buy a nice litre flask, placed by your bed and on your desk at work as a reminder, refilled when it is emptied to maintain routine. Notice how your digestion, skin and energy improves as you maintain the habit as the reward.
Hydration is key! But this is just one simple example, this process can be applied to all areas of your life.
Why should I bother?
Why should dads consider forming some new positive habits? These positive habits can benefit your overall mood throughout the day and in the long run so you can be the best dad for your family and feel energised for maximum productivity!
Check out our article ‘Maximising Productivity for Busy Working Dads’ for more on maximising productivity.
Positive habits for Dads and parents
When it comes to parenting, some positive habits you could be focusing on to strengthen your relationship with your kids include:
- Spend regular quality time with kids reading, doing a weekly activity, creating memories together.
- Spend regular time doing something for YOU to destress!
- Use more positive reinforcements to encourage behaviours
- Take your kids into nature as often as possible
- Be more conscious of how much time your children are spending on screens
- Look after yourself and be more aware of your bad habits that your kids might pick up on and become susceptible to later in life such as smoking, swearing or arguing in front of them.
Using routine to concrete habits
Habit and routine are similar, but not quite the same. Routine is what makes a habit stick, but a habit itself is a response to an engrained impulse, like biting your nails when you feel anxious.
To stay motivated and maintain your new habitual behaviour, focus on the intention behind the habit.
What is it you want to gain?
Is it more time with your family?
A healthier mind and body?
Higher focus at work?
Record your progress, track your routine! This will help you to notice how you are benefitting from these new habits, and whether you are committing to your routine.
There are a lot of rumours about how long it takes to form new habits, but the truth is that habits come in many shapes and sizes, varying from person to person.
The more pleasurable or unhealthy habits might take as little as a day to form due to the reward outweighing the practice, but others require hard work and commitment. These are often the ones that will be more rewarding and life changing in the long run.
Breaking bad habits
Habits are formed through repetitive behavioural cycles over time, and so breaking them can feel daunting, and might prove difficult. Most people have bad habits in some area of their life, and sometimes these are largely unconscious patterns of behaviour that we have simply become used to.
So, how do we break these bad habits?
The science behind habits shows that our brains, over time, stop transmitting neurons to tell us to do the habit, and it becomes a subconscious action or behavioural pattern. This can make habits harder to identify (although you might have them rudely pointed out to you by your partner or work colleagues!) and also harder to address.
So, the first step is to identify the habit, the triggers, and how it is holding you back. From here you can plan what steps are needed to realistically break the habit cycle. Do you replace it with something else that becomes a positive habit, such as drinking water every time you crave a cigarette or a beer, or swapping bad language with funny language in front of your kids?
Be prepared for slip ups on the way, don’t be hard on yourself, and give yourself due praise for your achievements.
To break and track habits some good apps to download on your phone are:
Habitica – for organisation and habits breaking
Quitzilla – tracks sobriety and habits
Habit Tracker – helps form positive habits and track goals
If you are struggling with habits that are affecting your day to day, wellbeing or relationships, here are some extra links to follow for more advice:
Verywellmind.com: https://www.verywellmind.com/forty-healthy-coping-skills-4586742: Healthy Coping Mechanisms:
Headspace.com: https://www.headspace.com/articles/break-bad-habits: Breaking Bad Habits
Prevention.com: https://www.prevention.com/health/mental-health/a30855669/how-to-break-bad-habits/ : The Science Behind Bad Habits.