Habits are powerful forces that shape our daily lives, influencing our actions, behaviours, and, ultimately, our success. Whether positive or negative, habits are formed through a neurological pattern called the habit loop. Understanding this loop and learning how to hack it can be the key to transforming your habits for the better. One effective method for achieving this is habit stacking, which involves integrating new habits into existing routines. In this article, we’ll explore what habits are, dissect the habit loop, and delve into the art of habit stacking to help you build better habits.
What are Habits?
Habits are automatic, routine behaviours that we perform consistently in response to specific cues. These actions become ingrained in our daily lives through repetition, eventually becoming second nature. Habits can be constructive and detrimental, influencing various aspects of our lives, including health, productivity, and overall well-being.
The Habit Loop
The habit loop, as proposed by Charles Duhigg in his book “The Power of Habit,” consists of four stages: the cue, the craving, the action, and the reward. Understanding each stage is crucial for hacking the habit loop.
The cue is the trigger that initiates the habit loop. It can be a specific time of day, a location, an emotional state, or any other environmental factor that signals the brain to engage in habitual behaviour.
Following the cue, a craving develops—a desire or motivation to act. This emotional response drives us to move from the cue to the next stage of the habit loop.
The action is the behaviour itself—the actual habit. This is the stage where the routine is executed, whether running, reaching for a snack, or checking your phone.
Finally, there’s the reward—the positive outcome or satisfaction from completing the habit loop. The brain associates this reward with the cue and craving, reinforcing the habit and making it more likely to be repeated.
Building Better Habits
Here’s a step-by-step guide to implementing habit stacking for building better habits:
1. Identify current habits: Identify existing habits that can be a foundation for your new behaviour. These could be daily rituals like brushing your teeth, having a cup of coffee, or commuting to work.
- 2. Choose a new habit: Select a small, manageable habit you want to adopt. Start with something achievable to increase the liklihood of success.
- 3. Stack the Habits: Attach the new habit to an existing one by placing it immediately before, during, or after the established behaviour. For example, if you want to read more, stack it with your morning coffee routine.
- 4. Be Consistent; Consistency is key to habit formation. Stick to your daily habit-stacking routine to reinforce the neural pathways associated with the new behaviour.
- 5. Ramp up the Rewards. For rewards to contribute to forming habits, they need to surpass your typical experiences, prompting the release of dopamine and firmly imprinting the details in the brain.
- 6. Celebrate Success. Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements along the way. Recognising progress reinforces the habit loop and motivates continued effort.
Hacking the Habit Loop
To change or establish a habit, it’s essential to intervene at various stages of the habit loop. For instance, you can experiment with cues, adjust your cravings, modify the action, or find alternative rewards. Being aware of these stages empowers you to shape your habits consciously.
Now, let’s introduce the concept of habit stacking—a powerful technique for building better habits. Habit stacking involves integrating new behaviours into existing routines and capitalising on established habits to create a seamless transition into positive change.
What is Habit Stacking?
Habit stacking is based on the idea that habits are easier to form when attached to pre-existing routines. By piggybacking new habits onto established ones, you leverage the strength of existing neural pathways, making it more likely for the behaviour to become automatic.
Habit Stacking and Corrective Chiropractic
Building good habits is an integral part of a corrective chiropractic care program. The three-legged stool metaphor describes three main components contributing to overall health and wellbeing. These components typically include chiropractic adjustments, removing bad habits, and stretches and exercise.
When we build all three of these habits, and when all behaviours are repeated regularly, the stool is stable and can stand the test of time. When we only part commit and only one or two legs are present, the stool is unstable.
The 3-legged stool of Corrective Chiropractic
1. The first leg is establishing your best program of adjustments. Each adjustment builds on the subsequent adjustment, so with time and adjustments, we can improve the movement and alignment of your spine. Missing adjustments only slow down the correction process, and too many misses can derail the correction. Committing to your regular appointments reduces subluxations, as is nervous system interference. This allows your body to function and feel better.
2. The second leg is to remove bad habits. Poor day-to-day habits can make our progress go backwards and reduce the effectiveness of our adjustments. This can be anything from poor posture to lifting incorrectly. Some common, everyday bad habits are sitting or standing incorrectly or sleeping improperly.
3. The third leg is Stretches and Exercise for spinal health: Stretches and exercise will help stablise your spine, making you less likely to relapse. They will also strengthen the muscles around the correction, which can help to maintain your longer improvements. Your chiropractor can provide spinal orthotics and exercises to maximise your results.
Understanding the habit loop and employing habit stacking can transform your goal to build better habits. By consciously intervening at various stages of the habit loop and integrating new behaviours into existing routines, you can hack your habits for lasting positive change. Remember, small, consistent efforts over time lead to significant transformations in your life.
Chiropractic Life’s Commitment
At Chiropractic Life, we deliver neurostructural corrective chiropractic at our practices across Australia and New Zealand. Our approach focuses on correcting and realigning the spine and posture. This enables the nervous system to be free from interference and the brain to receive feedback from the spine and deliver the right information to the body through optimum brain-to-body communication.
Explore www.chiropracticlife.com.au/locations to find a convenient location near you.
Optimise your brain-to-body connections today with Chiropractic Life.
1. Clear, James. Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. New York, New York, Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2018.
2. Duhigg, C, 2012, The Power of Habit. London, England: Random House Books
3. Spinal Research, 2019, ‘Chiropractic and Consciousness – How we influence Brain Plasticity’, https://spinalresearch.com.au/chiropractic-and-consciousness-how-we-influence-brain-plasticity/