How to Use the Power of Habit to Get You Through Tough Times

Sometimes, life just gets tough. It can be difficult to know exactly what to do when this happens, but it’s bound to happen to all of us, several times, throughout the course of our lives.

Sometimes there’s a tragedy in the family, or a crisis at work. At other times, our finances are unexpectedly hit by an emergency expense.

On certain occasions, health issues result in us needing to seek out addiction treatment centers in order to work out our unhealthy dependencies.

Whatever the case, life continues even during difficult times. For that reason, it’s important to identify and apply effective strategies for keeping things on track during such trying times.

Perhaps the most reliable way of keeping control of our lives during difficult times, is leveraging the power of habit in our favor. Here are

some ways of achieving that.

Identify Your Habit Triggers

Every habit is defined by a certain process, which begins with a trigger and ends with a reward. The habit is the action that takes place in the middle of this process.

So, for example, a habit trigger might be sitting down at our desk first thing in the morning, with a cup of coffee in hand. The habit might be to surf YouTube until we’ve finished drinking the cup of coffee.  The reward is feeling amused and relaxed as we do so.

In this example, maybe we wish that sitting down at our desk didn’t trigger us to visit YouTube compulsively. In any event, the first step in mastering our habits is to become aware of our habit triggers and how these manifest — often unconsciously — throughout the course of the day.

Get a notepad and pen and begin recording all the habit triggers that you notice over the course of a day. Keep adding to the trigger last later, as and when you identify new habit triggers.

Begin introducing new, positive habits, starting small Rome wasn’t built in a day, so the saying goes, and by the same token good habits are not inculcated in a heartbeat just because we’ve sat down for a minute and decided that it’d be great if we naturally got up and worked flat out for the entire day without prompting.

Habits are things which we need to build into our own internal operating systems — into the very neuronal connections of our brain. We do this by starting small, so small in fact, that it would be virtually impossible to fail.

If you want to make a habit of daily exercise, begin with the pledge that you will do one sit-up per day. After a week or two, expand your workout slightly. Keep doing this until you’re performing full workouts, habitually, without terrible mental resistance.

Begin dissolving your old, negative habits by switching things around.  Once you know what trigger sets off a bad habit, and you have some sense of the “reward” that habit confers to you (such as feeling entertained), you can set about dissolving the habit by switching things around.

In the example of YouTubing before work — the trigger (sitting down) and the reward (feeling entertained) need to stay roughly the same.

Your job is to switch the habit to something more positive that offers a similar reward. Maybe reading a few pages of a book?

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