How understanding habits can change life for the better

Habits are powerful. What we do matters. More importantly, what we consistently do, profoundly shapes both our present and our future. Our habits affect every part of our lives. We all take thousands of micro-decisions and actions every single day and much of our everyday behaviour is habitual. Our habits enable us to do many things unconsciously, or without thinking about them very much, if at all. This month, we’ll be exploring how habits work and why they matter, when it comes to being more intentional about our health and wellbeing.

Habits can be defined as routine actions and behaviours; those things we do repeatedly, often without being consciously aware of what, how or why we’re doing them.

The more often we perform an action or behave a certain way, the more it gets physically wired into our brain.

This happens through a three-part neurological ‘loop’ which consists of:

1. A cue or trigger

2. which leads to a behaviour or action,

3. which is followed and reinforced by a reward.  

Each tiny trigger-action-reward loop may seem inconsequential, but it’s not.

Small things are nearly always more impactful than we think (and have a habit of adding up!)

For example, a teaspoon of sugar isn’t much, but a habit of adding a spoonful in every cup of tea or coffee you drink can add up to a small sugar mountain, over time. On the other hand, going for a short walk two or three days a week might not feel like it’s made much if any difference by the end of the first week. But creating a new habit of taking a walk three days a week consistently over 3-6 months will significantly improve your physical fitness.

Our habits matter, because they can be both the making of us - and the breaking of us.

Life-giving habits can be an incredible force for good. Healthy habits aren’t primarily about rules. They are patterns which can help us improve and protect our wellbeing, in body, mind, and spirit.

However, at times we all struggle with patterns of behaviour that don’t serve us well. We live in a culture where it is easier to make unhealthy choices, than healthy ones and many of these less-than-healthy patterns are unconscious, so we’re often not even aware of them.

Most of us are aware we have some poor habits. But many of us hope to get away with them, without experiencing any negative consequences. Unfortunately, this hope is not generally well-founded. We’re all human and the struggle is real!

Poor habits stop us doing what we want to do - and keep us doing things we want to stop.

As Paul explains:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  (Romans 7:15)

Bad habits can feel like padlocks. However, the good news is that understanding how habits work gives us some keys to lasting freedom.

Surprisingly, habits can be relatively simple to break, although simple isn’t always easy! Having some basic information about our own habits can help, by enabling us to make a few quick adjustments, which can lead to a some early wins!

Noticing our habits and naming them to ourselves, is an important first step.

When we know what our habits are, we can think about which ones we want to grow - and which ones we might want to swap for something that serves us better.

If you want to become more aware of your own habits, so you can change life for the better, start here:

Identify ONE habit you want to celebrate and protect and ONE habit that you’d like to change.

Come back next month, to find out how to reinforce the habits you want to maintain for good and change others for the better.

In this month’s PDF worksheet and webinar, available exclusively through membership of our Angels Community, we’ll be exploring why even exploring habits can be challenging, as well as exploring some helpful ways to identify habits as a foundation for changing them, for good!

If you’d like to join us, why not become an Intentional Health Angel and let us support you to become more intentional about your own health and wellbeing? Membership of our Angels Community is our way of saying Thank You to the amazing group people who financially support the life-changing work of Intentional Health across the UK, by giving a small monthly donation. Membership includes support from the team and exclusive access to our monthly worksheets and a live 30 minute webinar. We’ll be on hand to answer your questions and share some stories, to help inspire you to be more intentional about your health and wellbeing, as your gifts enable us to serve others. Click here to find out more.