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How do habits begin and stop?

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Habits begin through a process known as the habit loop, which consists of three stages: the cue, the routine, and the reward. The cue is a trigger that sets off the habit, the routine is the behavior or action that follows, and the reward is the positive reinforcement that reinforces the habit. For example, a person may experience stress (cue), eat a cookie (routine), and feel a sense of relief (reward). Over time, the habit loop becomes ingrained in the brain and becomes automatic.

To break a habit, it's important to understand the habit loop and identify the cue, routine, and reward associated with the habit. Once identified, the routine can be replaced with a healthier behavior or action that still satisfies the same reward. For example, instead of eating a cookie when feeling stressed, a person may choose to take a walk, which can still provide a sense of relief. It's also important to create an environment that supports the desired habit change and to seek support from friends, family, or professionals if needed. Breaking a habit can be challenging, but with patience, persistence, and the right strategies, it is possible to overcome even the most ingrained habits.


Here are five suggestions to help start a new habit:

  1. Start small: Begin with a small and achievable habit that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. For example, if you want to start exercising, begin with a 10-minute walk each day.

  2. Make a plan: Create a plan that outlines what you will do, when you will do it, and how you will track your progress. Writing down your plan can help you stay focused and committed to your new habit.

  3. Find accountability: Share your new habit with someone else and ask them to hold you accountable. This can be a friend, family member, or even an online community.

  4. Celebrate progress: Celebrate small wins along the way, such as completing a week of your new habit. Celebrating progress can help keep you motivated and make the habit more enjoyable.

  5. Be patient: Starting a new habit takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and recognize that progress is not always linear. Keep going even if you have setbacks, and focus on building momentum over time.

Here are five suggestions to break an old habit:

  1. Identify triggers: Identify the situations, emotions, or people that trigger the habit. Understanding your triggers can help you avoid them or plan alternative responses.

  2. Replace the habit: Replace the old habit with a healthier alternative. For example, if you smoke when you're stressed, try deep breathing or meditation instead.

  3. Create new routines: Create new routines or behaviors that support the desired change. For example, if you want to stop watching TV before bed, create a new bedtime routine that includes reading or taking a warm bath.

  4. Seek support: Seek support from friends, family, or a professional if needed. Having someone to talk to can help you stay accountable and provide motivation.

  5. Be patient: Breaking an old habit takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and recognize that there may be setbacks along the way. Focus on progress, not perfection, and celebrate small wins to stay motivated. Remember, each day is a new opportunity to make progress and create positive change.

A book highly recommended by Coaches and Mental Health professionals is "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. He stresses the following points:


  1. Small habits can lead to big changes: Atomic habits are small habits that are repeated over time, leading to significant changes in behavior and outcomes.

  2. Focus on systems, not goals: Instead of setting goals, focus on creating systems that support the desired outcome. For example, instead of setting a goal to lose weight, create a system of healthy eating and exercise habits.

  3. Use the 4-step habit loop: The 4-step habit loop consists of cue, craving, response, and reward. By understanding and manipulating each step, you can create and maintain new habits.

  4. Make habits obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying: The four laws of behavior change are to make habits obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. By applying these laws, you can create a supportive environment that makes it easier to develop and maintain new habits.

  5. Embrace the power of identity: Habits are not just actions, they are a part of your identity. By focusing on the type of person you want to become, you can create habits that align with that identity.

  6. Continuously improve: The process of habit formation is ongoing, and continuous improvement is key. By continually reviewing and tweaking your habits, you can make small adjustments that lead to significant results over time.

At Beachons4Change we can offer valuable expertise and guidance based on our experience and training, which can help individuals overcome obstacles and develop effective strategies for achieving their goals. Secondly, when we commit to helping you, we provide accountability and motivation, helping people stay on track and maintain their commitment to personal growth. Thirdly, we offer a safe and supportive environment for exploring personal challenges and fears, enabling individuals to develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their motivations. Finally, when you commit to change, it sends a powerful message of self-care and self-worth, demonstrating a hunger to one's own growth and development. Message us and let us know how we can support you in your growth - leading you to greater fulfillment, success, and happiness.



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