How Habit Change Can Transform Your Life
Habit change is the hot topic in healthcare today, as we discuss at length in our Definitive Guide to Health Coaching e-book.
When we think of the word “habit”, we tend to think of things like:
- waking up for work at the same time every day
- eating the same thing for breakfast
- brushing our teeth every night before bed
And while these are indeed examples of habits at work, there’s so much more to them than what we see on the surface.
Habits aren’t just mundane tasks we perform on auto-pilot.
Habits are the #1 determinants of our quality of life, and they’re responsible for driving about 40 percent of our daily actions.
What this means is that nearly half of the decisions you make are unconscious.
The 411 on Habits and Habit Formation
The words “habit” and “behavior” are often used interchangeably because habits are a type of behavior.
At Health Coach Institute, we refer to habits as “automated behaviors”. They’re routines we perform without thinking about them.
Our brains form habits to help us function better and be more efficient. By performing certain daily behaviors automatically and turning them into habits, this frees up more of our brainpower, time, and energy to concentrate on other more challenging things (like learning a new skill, for instance).
Habits are a great thing when they’re beneficial to us. The problem is, not all habits are created equal.
Habits fall into three categories:
- Health-promoting (e.g. working out every day at 6 am)
- Healthy-destroying (e.g. smoking)
- Neutral—they don’t positively or negatively impact well-being (e.g. reading the daily paper with breakfast each morning)
With every ingrained behavior you perform, you are casting a vote for who you want to be. Your health-promoting habits cast a vote for being the most radiant and alive version of you, while your health-destroying habits erode that version.
Most of us have a pretty good idea of the habits in our lives that we’d like to change because they aren’t serving—or they’re downright harmful. But the power-pull of habits tends to keep us stuck.
In fact, patient non-compliance is one of doctors’ top barriers to successful patient outcomes.
That’s a fancy way of saying doctors tell people what to do but they fail to follow through and do what they’re told—even when their lives depend on it.
According to NCBI, “When preventive or treatment regimens are very complex and/or require lifestyle changes and the modification of existing habits, nonadherence can be as high as 70%.” NCBI goes on to say that, “Adherence to recommendations involving lifestyle changes such as exercise frequently poses significant difficulties for patients.”
The truth is, old habits die hard because they are literally wired into our brains. But when you change your habits, you can change your life.
Change Your Habits, Change Your Life
Here’s some great news: any habit—no matter how stubborn or ingrained—is within your power to change.
You may be thinking, If it’s so EASY, then why do I have such a hard time kicking my bad habits?
Contrary to popular belief, changing habits doesn’t come down to willpower as much as it does to a lack of understanding of how habits work.
As bestselling author Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discovered something back in the 90s called the “Habit Loop”.
The Habit Loop is a simple neurological loop that controls every habit and consists of three parts:
- A cue
- A routine
- A reward
You can read all about it in his book, but to summarize, he details a universal framework for ridding yourself of problem behaviors.
It begins with first identifying the “routine” or behavior you want to change. Charles uses his own afternoon cookie habit at work as an example. Once you’ve identified the habit you want to break, it’s time to determine the “cue” that’s triggering your habit in the first place (e.g. boredom, hunger, etc.).
Next, you need to hone in on what “reward” you’re extracting from this habit (e.g. the cookie, distraction, socialization, etc.). Last, it’s time to create a new plan (or habit) that’s based on conscious choices and what you’ve learned about your cue, routine, and reward.
Duhigg shares that he realized his habit wasn’t about the cookie, but his need for socialization. So he swapped his unhealthy 3:30 pm daily habit with a 10-minute socialization break. Repeated over time, it became his new habit.
How to Break Bad Habits For Good
Habit change is one of the core methodologies we teach here at Health Coach Institute because as we mentioned above, when you change a habit, you change a life. (And we’re all about transforming lives over here.)
If you’re looking to break bad habits for good (or to learn how to help others do so), habit change coaching is the secret weapon to creating true and lasting positive transformation in your life that supports your well-being.
And the best part?
This method of coaching helps you change your habits without having to remember to do things differently.
Our proprietary Habit Change Coaching Method (HCCM for short), which we teach in our Become a Health Coach program, teaches a five-step transformation process to help you learn how to make lifestyle changes that stick.
What’s particularly powerful about HCCM is that it creates lasting behavior change by facilitating identity change.
HCCM helps clients anchor into a new desired identity and way of living by leveraging the power of habit. Our five-step process facilitates neurological restructuring at the identity level—so habits aren’t just something you have to remember to do…they become who you are.
When we make change at the identity level, follow-through becomes automatic. The habits that create our best life become non-negotiables. Not through discipline and willpower or punishment and reward loops, but because it’s who we are. We are choosing healthy living.
This is radically different from most other coaching models. Our mission here at Health Coach Institute is to create masters of habit change.
We teach aspiring coaches—and those who are looking to take charge of their health in a way they’ve never been able to before—how to create meaningful habit change that lasts.
HCCM is backed by years of study, research, and practical application and incorporates evidence-based coaching principles, such as:
- motivational interviewing
- linguistic programming
- positive psychology
- the science of habit change
- mindfulness practices
Our approach to creating positive improvements in the areas of health and wellness using HCCM involves looking at the whole person, and assessing how various areas of their life are interrelated, and how those affect overall health.
Interested in learning more about our coach training program, HCCM, and our approach to habit change practice? Click here to learn more.