Helping new habits stick

by | 18 Jun 2024 | Unleashing You, Wellbeing

Every habit has a trigger, behaviour and reward, changing the cycle leads to new habits with wider considerations helping to set ourself up for success.

Making habits stick

A reminder that every habit has a trigger, behaviour, and reward.  Therefore, to create lasting change we must break the old cycle and create a new cycle through replacing one of the elements. 

Simply trying to resist the craving (trigger) is unlikely to succeed if we rely on willpower alone.  Willpower is a very variable resource and influenced by a range of factors and our level of resources.  Willpower can work for a one off action when we are feeling fully motivated but is less successful for longer term changes.

Setting yourself up for success

Whilst the technique set out in the blog on changing habits changes the cycle, there are wider things we can consider that will increase successful outcomes and lasting change.

  • Consider your wider wellbeing and where actions would lead to reduced stress levels. Lower stress means we are less likely to resort to unhelpful habits and strategies.
  • Self-kindness is needed for long term changes. Notice your internal voice.  Avoid criticising and judging yourself when things don’t go to plan.  Support yourself and speak as you would to a friend to encourage yourself past obstacles and setbacks.
  • Practice self-awareness to identify other factors getting in the way of successful habit changes e.g. any limiting beliefs. Practice reframing these to show confidence in yourself to succeed.  Developing a sense of optimism and belief that we can change will also be helpful.
  • Celebrate small wins and successes.
  • Ensure the reward is meaningful to you. This may be an immediate reward or a stepping stone to a bigger one.
  • Create accountability by sharing your plan with someone or commit to doing a new action/behaviour with someone.
  • Start with small, easy changes, then build up to the full habit you wish to develop. For example, if you feel you don’t have time for a break at lunchtime, start with a short ten minute one, create the habit and then gradually increase the time.  The reward of feeling recharged in the afternoon will help motivate you. 
  • Remind yourself of the cumulative effect of small changes. You won’t be fitter after one walk, but daily walks will make a difference.
  • Create prompts and reminders for new habits. Sometimes habits fail simply because we forget. Link a new habit to a current desired behaviour or set a reminder on a device.
  • As a consumer we are working against sophisticated marketing strategies with the intention of encouraging us to make unhealthy choices – remember when sweets were by the checkout in every supermarket? Identify where you are vulnerable to these and plan an alternative approach, for example, perhaps online food shopping to reduce impulse buying of unhealthy foods.
  • Be mindful of peer pressure. Do those you are mixing with support and live the habit you are seeking.  Peer pressure makes it harder to not join in, so create a supportive environment that practices your desired habits.
  • Identify a wider challenge that you want to take (the reward) to increase the motivation for smaller habit changes. There are a range of apps available to help with these e.g. walking a specific distance in a month.
  • Changing your environment to remove the unhelpful cues and stimuli e.g. put your phone away to stop scrolling; don’t sit down and start watching television (this can be the reward afterwards) if you plan to go to the gym, go there straight from work.
  • For each habit you want to develop identify where you can create barriers to unhelpful habits and remove obstacles to beneficial ones.
  • Track your habits. If you know this will motivate you literally tick each day off on a calendar.
  • Urge surfing – isn’t this a great description?! Triggers and stimuli could also be called urges, – when we experience that desire to do something.  It is generally experienced as a physical feeling or thought which increases in intensity until the need is met.  Urge surfing involves noticing the sensations when something is craved, perhaps labelling them (but not in a negative way) and accepting them in a mindful way.  Aim to notice the feeling as it increases, before peaking and flowing away – hence the phrase ‘urge surfing’.  Have an approach of mindful curiosity and acceptance, breathing slowly and deeply throughout.  Repeat as required.  This is not an easy skill and requires practice but does work and is interesting to try.
  • Don’t try and change everything at once. Set yourself up for success with small bitesize changes.

Making changes to our habits

    Habits can be changed through practice and breaking the current habit cycle.  Where change is hard is is often linked to other areas of self-acceptance, self-kindness, and any limiting beliefs we might hold.  These are all elements of the Unleashing You programme and you can find more here.

    You can also read on to the other blogs in the series Understanding Habits to Drive Positive Change and  Building New Habits


    Contact us below for more details

    To learn more please contact us on 01202 612 326 or through the options below. We’ll discuss details and how we can help you or your organisation.


    Submit a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    If you'd like to learn more about how to work together please get in touch

    © Protea Solutions

    Terms and Conditions

    Privacy policy