Sat, 25 June 2016
Habits are an intrinsic part of who we are and how we function. Habits are fundamental to how we think and behave, which makes them key to how we live our lives and make our decisions.
The achievement of our goals and success are more the product of our daily habits than any one off transformative situation or action on our part.
Habits are a key part of mind management because;
To do this we need to know which habits are good for us and to continue and critically which habits are not supporting our goals. The first step therefore is to identify a habit you want to change for a helpful, empowering, positive, healthy or wealthy habit, or a new habit you want to cultivate.
This an important step as the funny thing about habits (like limiting thoughts) is we’re not always aware of them. We have to take a deliberate step back to identify the habit or to acknowledge that thing we keep doing but would really love to change is indeed a habit – an habitual way of behaving in response to a situation or action.
Now you know the habit you want to change, is it a matter of using your willpower to change it and your motivation to keep going?
Yes and no. Yes because when it comes to habits willpower and motivation both have an important role to play but they’re not enough on there own as there are limitations to be aware of.
Willpower is the power to exercise your will. To have control over what you do and self-discipline.
But the thing about will power is you only have so much of it and when it runs out – because we’re tired or hungry or sad – it’s hard to rely on.
This is why you can wake up with good intentions and lots of willpower but by the evening it’s decidedly harder to exercise your will.
Although you can get better at exercising willpower the more we do it, your brain likes your habits so wants you to keep them.
So although willpower has a role to play in changing your habits, it can’t be relied on to do it alone. The same goes for your motivation.
Your motivation is the purpose or the ‘why’ behind what you do – in this case behind the new habit you want.
I think of motivation as having different levels or layers and each level or layer has a different strength.
Think of it as concentric circles –circles within circles like an onion.
The outer layer is your big ‘why’ or the purpose that motivates you.
Say you want to develop some health and fitness habits– the big outer layer motivation is to be healthier and fitter because it makes you feel better, gives you more energy, to get the most out of life, you look better which makes you feel better, and that makes you a better happier person in yourself and relationships.
In short the outer layer is you want to develop healthy habits because being fit and healthy feels good and makes me a happier person. That’s all very well and good but it’s hard to keep that at the forefront of our mind in everything we do – and we know that willpower will only take us so far. Especially as we move in onto the next layer.
The next layer or circle in is your situation. For example, you have a busy life, you’re looking after your house, maybe you have a family or a hectic social life or many commitments, and you’re always rushing around from one thing to the next.
Then we get to the next layer in which is your career or job that maybe demands a lot from you in terms of energy and time.
Next comes the final layer because right in the middle (like the bullseye on a dart board) is a circle which represent you. It has the word ‘you’ of ‘me’ written in it.
This is you at this very moment or in the present moment when you’re thinking about it.
That’s the model but it’s not static, because the thickness of these layers changes over the day and over the week, they may be different at the weekend to a Monday morning,
The point is your motivation which starts off with the best of intentions can get hijacked or watered down as you move through the layers.
So first thing in the morning you start off with good intentions about changing your habits but then you get busy getting the breakfast done, getting to work, your energy dips and then the you in the middle circle – i.e. the you at that precise moment – isn’t so worried about the bigger picture because the needs of the moment are nearer to you than the big circle on the outside. And the needs of the moment are that you’re hungry, you’re busy and need something quick to boost your energy but more importantly in that moment to overcome the hunger and to do it quickly and easily in a satisfying way.
That’s when you don’t want to just be relying on willpower and motivation and can do with something else to help you.
Let’s think about what that could be and to do this we need to go back to the idea of what a habit is.
The habit loop
Habits have a cycle they go through. These are the elements or phases a habits exhibits or has h to be classed a habit. A habit is made up of
This whole habit process or framework is sometimes referred to as the habit loop and it’s a crucial concept to changing your habits.
Disrupt the loop
Now comes the clever part. You take this habit loop and use it to your advantage to reduce your reliance on willpower or motivation to help you form new empowering habits to support your goals.
In practical terms you do this through disrupting this existing habit loop and tying the new habit you want to cultivate to an existing one. In that way the existing habit or activity becomes the cue or trigger for the new one you want to do.
So you take a habit you do every day like cleaning your teeth or having a shower and disrupt or interrupt it – because you’re not necessarily completely changing the habit, you might be adding in a new habit.
You’re effectively hijacking or piggybacking an existing habit.
I’ve been doing this by interrupting my morning bathroom routine to insert a push-ups and stretching directly in-between cleaning my teeth and having my shower. And it works as I’ve done it every day this year. It’s now intrinsically tied into my morning routine so it doesn’t feel right to get in the shower if I haven’t done my little exercise habit.
Try it for yourself. Tie or link your new habit to an existing one and see how long it takes to create a new pattern of normality, in other words a new habit. Let us know how you get on.
The Changeability Podcast
Hear us talk about all of this and more on episode 99 of the Changeability Podcast.
Thank you and next steps
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Keep in touch
Sat, 18 June 2016
What are habits and why they matter
Your habits are key to who you are and the change you want.
Habits underpin what we do at Brilliant Living HQ.com and on the Changeability Podcast – mind management for your best life and business and how to make changes.
Lasting change, i.e. achieving your goals – is not the result of a one off transformation but a product of daily habits.
What do you want to achieve? What do you want to change? Whatever it is, getting it is the result of your habits. Habits play a role in what you look and feel like, in your success and relationships.
All of which makes it slightly surprising we’ve got to episode 98 of the Changeability Podcast before dedicating and episode to habits – but here we are and this is it.
So what are habits?
Habits are the things we do, but also and maybe as importantly, the way we think and what we believe. They include the self-beliefs that influence what we do, our behaviour and the actions we take.
A habit is the repeated thinking and behaviours that become automatic, so we don’t mostly think about it.
We need to know how we form habits in order to change them.
Habits have certain characteristics or constituent parts that keep us doing them.
Cues, routines and rewards
There’s a cue that initiates the behaviour.
A cue is a trigger, or reminder, something that triggers our thought or behaviour. Like the cue line in a play, (the line before you come in) which on hearing it reminds you to say your line, or triggers you to deliver your line.
Then comes the routine. This is the behaviour or action that the cue has triggered – and the bit we think of as the habit.
This is followed by the third part of a habit – the reward. This is the bit that is of benefit to you in some way, even though it might not actually feel like that, your brain is seeing it’s benefit. Because it’s a reward or benefit your brain wants you to repeat it and so you do until you’ve done it often enough it becomes a habit.
This forms what Charles Duhigg in ‘The Power of Habit’ and Stanford professor B.J. Hogg in ‘Tiny Habits’ call the ‘habit loop’.
Many of our everyday activities involve habits with a cue, action and reward. Here’s a few you probably repeatedly do and don’t really think about them :
Then there’s certain ways of behaving we get into which quickly become habits for example,
Then there are the habits you think of as bad or unhelpful.
If you want proof of the power of habit – if proof were needed – just look at your pet. Our dog Dude not only knows the time of day but exactly what should be happening in his world at what time and what order. Especially when it comes to food and walks.
Why we need habits
Habits help us manage our minds.
Habits save us brain power – or rather free up our brains to do exciting creative thinking.
Making habits out of the things we do repeatedly, our behaviours and actions – provides our brain with a power saving or effort saving mechanism. An automatic response requires less creativity and complexity of thinking from us.
Gretchen Rubin in her book “Better than before” sums it up nicely:
Why habits matter
Habits matter because they hold great influence and sway over how we think, act and feel – which just about covers everything we do.
We get into habits of thinking, doing and feeling.
And because it’s the brain’ shortcut to behaving and feeling certain ways, it becomes automatic behaviour.
This is great if it’s good automatic behaviour – but what if it’s not good behaviour? We’ve mentioned a few of our bad habits, those unhelpful habits that don’t support us in the changes we want to make and the way we want to live. And the truth is we all have unhelpful habits.
That’s why habits matter. They matter to us because they are such a big part of who we are and what they do. The results of their influence is felt and seen in every aspect of our life and work. They help to determine how we feel and what we do.
Habits underpin our mind management and how we can manage our minds to change what we do and how we do it.
And habits matter because lasting change is a product of daily habits. The little small daily things we do that day in day out, week in week out and then month in month out, go into making the person we are - how we think, feel and act. In other words, we and our lives are the sum and result of our habits.
What can we do about it? Before we think about how to change our habits – we need to identify them and decide which are helpful and which are not serving us in what we want to do or the person we want to be.
The mind work is to take a day really notice what you think are your habits. Notice what you do and how you feel and note down a word or two or you’ll forget (you think you wont but you really will) and then determine if it’s linked to a habit and if that habit is helping or hindering you.
To take it one step further you can relate it to the there being the three aspects of a habit. This will not only help you determine if it actually is a habit but also help you understand what triggers it, (the cue) how it shows itself (the routine or behaviour or action) and what that habit is doing for you (this is the reward and benefits bit).
This will not only give you an increased level of self awareness and understanding but will put you in a good place to take forward some of next week’s suggestions when we look at how to change your habits.
Changeability Podcast Episode 98
Hear us talk about all of this and a lot more – including some more of Julian’s unsavoury habits, on episode 98 of the Changeability Podcast.
Thank you for reading or listening today. We appreciate you spending your time with us and if you appreciate us we’d love you to share this with someone you know. Send them an email or share on social media.
Links and resources
Sat, 11 June 2016
Healthy happy eating with The Merrymaker Sisters
Kathryn and I first met Emma and Carla when we were attending a business entrepreneurs’ event in the Philippines. Meeting these two vivacious and fun loving entrepreneurs made a mark on both of us.
Their joy of life was infectious, and we wanted to know more about them, their journey and what they did.
Emma and Carla Papas, known as ‘The Merrymaker Sisters’ are real life sisters who went from being communication professionals to health and happiness advocates and health coaches!
They're the founders of themerrymakersisters.com where they inspire hundreds of thousands of Merrymakers around the world with real food recipes and ways to find and follow your bliss!
So, what better than to invite them onto episode 97 of The Changeability Podcast laugh and chat healthy happy eating with The Merrymaker Sisters.
Packed into this week’s Changeability Podcast
Links mentioned on today’s show:
Sat, 4 June 2016
Change your brain, revitalise your body – really? Sound too good to be true?
We’ve been talking over the last few weeks about how to use the power of your brain to reach your ideal body weight, look younger and boost your energy.
And let’s face it, who couldn’t do with a bit of that!
As part of our wellness and wellbeing series we’ve explored Dr Daniel Amen’s book, Change your Brain, Change your Body, including 10 brain principles for the body you want and four ways to use your brain to change your weight. Today we conclude our exploration in change your brain, revitalise your body.
How your brain can help beautify your body and improve your overall health and well-being.
Dr Amen puts forward 6 solutions:
1 - The Skin solution
Your skin is directly tied to the health of your brain.
People spend a lot of money on skin care products and more. It’s a huge multi-million pound business. From skin-care products to laser treatment, to the plastic surgeon, but Dr Amen argues these are only temporary fixes and the real solution lies in your brain.
It’s your brain that tells your skin to produce more or less oil, supervises the production of supportive collagen and is responsible for skin regeneration; so it’s there we need to begin.
So what’s bad for our brain (and therefore our skin)?
Well it’s the usual suspects: Caffeine, alcohol, smoking, poor diet, too much sugar, yo-yo dieting, inadequate water intake, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, stress, unresolved emotional conflicts or PTSD, hormonal changes, untreated psychiatric conditions, dementia, medications, sun exposure, pollution and environmental toxins, climate.
And the solution:
Get more sleep, distress, exercise, balance your hormones, have more sex (really), limit caffeine and alcohol, quit smoking, eat a brain healthy diet (more of that next week), maintain a healthy weight, drink more water, balance your sun exposure (some sun is good for your Vitamin D) but not too much which can cause premature aging and sun spots. 20 minutes during the day after which protect yourself with sunscreen. And finally treat mental disorders and memory problems.
Plus you can take some supplements, e.g. Vitamin D, fish oil, evening primrose oil and grape seed extract (good antioxidant)
2 - The Hormone solution
Did you know your hormones have a huge impact on brain function?
When your hormones are balanced you tend to feel happy and energetic.
And in contrast Dr Amen cites evidence pointing to low hormonal levels being responsible for amongst other things: low libido, depression, memory problems, midlife crises and divorce.
While high hormone levels lead to: hyper competitiveness, acne or aggression.
Once again it’s the brain that controls all the hormones in your body.
Types of hormonal imbalance include thyroid, adrenal, testosterone, oestrogen, progesterone to name but a few. Different hormones require different treatments but often begin with blood tests depending on the symptoms.
3 - The Focus and Energy solution
If you want more energy and focus (and frankly, who doesn’t) then you are probably prey to one or more focus and energy robbers.
These fall into different categories including; infectious causes, hormonal issues, low or erratic blood sugar states, anaemia, brain trauma, environmental toxins, inherited brain disorders, medications, chronic stress, untreated past emotional traumas and bad brain habits.
So if you find yourself wondering if your lack of focus could be something more that just being disorganised or lacking focus, it might well be. The good news is there’s lots you can do to counteract this.
The first step is to get any of those focus and energy robbers treated and at the same time develop and maintain a brain-healthy lifestyle – adequate sleep, a brain-healthy diet, exercise (4-5 times/week), a stress reduction program if chronically stressed, and meditation is a particularly good energy booster too. Plus, certain foods are energy boosters including fruit, veg, beans, and whole grains and protein.
4 - The Sleep solution
And then we get to solution 4 – the sleep solution. Always a favourite topic of conversation between us. One of us a night owl who can survive on considerably less than the other.
Dr Amen suggests resting your brain for a slimmer shape and smoother skin, pointing to a small study by the University of Chicago which suggests people who are sleep deprived (the test was on 12 healthy men in their twenties who slept only 4 hours a night) were more likely to choose sweets, cookies, and cake over fruit, veg and dairy products.
Practical action steps in the sleep solution include: maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoid exercise close to bed time, and what causes sleep deprivations which includes amongst others medications, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and a number of others along with these usual suspects.
5 - The Stress solution
A little stress can be a good thing but excessive stress both in good and bad forms can spell trouble for your brain and body. Chronic stress affects the flow of blood to the brain, lowering overall brain function and prematurely ageing the brain and can also affect the body making you look older.
A 2009 study of 647 women found the physical effects of chronic stress were similar to the effects of smoking, being obese or being 10 years older than their actual age.
Techniques to help calm stress and thereby have a better body include: meditation, yoga, learning to delegate, practicing gratitude, getting enough sleep, exercise, soothing music, lavender, rehearsing or practicing situations that cause stress, living in the present (mindfulness), laughing more, seeking help, self-hypnosis and avoiding substances that harm your brain (the aforementioned usual suspects).
6 - The Negative Thoughts solution
The last solution is around thinking your way to being thinner, younger and happier through avoiding negative thoughts. Dr Amen cites 9 types of ANTs or Automatic Negative Thoughts that get in the way of your being thinner, feeling and looking younger and being happier.
We’ve looked at these and more in a previous post and episode of the Changeability Podcast which you check out at – Episode 39 – 11 Negative thoughts to avoid. And how to swat them.
Change your Brain, Change your Body
‘Change your Brain, Change your Body’ is an interesting book that really got me thinking about whether some of the things he talks about, which I’m sometimes frustrated about in my own behaviours – tiredness, fogginess of thinking, could well be around imbalances, or poor dietary considerations and I was left wanting to explore that more.
It’s a dense book with many useful actionable steps in it, plenty to ponder and take action on and return to for further reading. It will really make you think about the mind-body connection.
Where to start?
Start by changing a few vital habits that will have the maximum impact. That may mean replacing ‘anti-nutrition’ with brain healthy foods, or taking supplements geared to your brain type, or by gradually starting an exercise program, or getting a bit more kip (sleep). Then fine tune your life changes to ramp up your brain and body health.
Episode 96 of the Changeability Podcast
Hear us talk about all of this and more on episode 96 of the Changeability Podcast on iTunes, Sticher, Tunein or in the podcast player at the top of this post.
Links mentioned in the show
Vote for the Changeability Podcast
We received some excellent news this week. We’re through to the final of the Audience Appreciation Award 2016 at New Media Europe 2016 – which is incredibly exciting and down to you lovelies who all voted for us in stage 1 of the Award process. The winners of this award will become known later this month at an Awards event in London.
We could do with your help to vote for us from now to 10th June. The competition has moved to Twitter and all it requires is that you vote for our podcast on Twitter, by going to:
BrilliantLivingHQ.com/awards2016, scrolling down to and click on The Changeability Podcast link under ‘The Audience Appreciation Award’. This will pre-populate a tweet which shows your support for our podcast.
One final thing– if you felt super-duper kind – please vote for us once a day up to 10th June – thank you.