Did you ever want to make or break a habit? We all have habits, some good and some not so good. Habits are learned and largely automatic behaviors. A body of research confirms that on average, it takes about four weeks for a new behavior to become routine or habit. Let’s break down how to start a new healthy habit or maybe end a less beneficial one.

1. Set your goal as a positive statement. For example, instead of saying “I will quit nighttime snacking at night”, say “I will practice healthy eating habits.” Write down your goal. Putting our commitments on paper helps us commit. Telling your goal to someone you trust can be very helpful as well.

2. Determine a replacement behavior. When aiming to develop a new habit, your replacement behavior is the goal itself.  But, when you are trying to break a habit, you must identify a superior behavior to put in its place.

3. Identify and become aware of your triggers. Behavior patterns don’t exist independently. Often, one habit is associated with other aspects of your typical routine. Late night snacking, for example, may be trigged by mindless late night television. Identify “when” the habit is triggered and “why” you do the thing you want to quit— boredom, loneliness, thirst?

4. Post self-reminders. Leave yourself notes wherever the behavior usually occurs: mirrors, refrigerators, computer monitors or some other place where you will see it regularly. If you can accept reminders without having them make you angry, ask a family member, friend or co-worker to use a particular phrase that reminds you of your goal.

5. Write daily affirmations. Write your phrase or sentence in the present tense (as if it were already happening), and write it ten times a day for twenty-one days. This can help make cement your goal into your subconscious, which will help you practice the new behavior and keep you focused and motivated.

6. Reward your progress at set time intervals. Focus on your goal moment by moment, but recognize your commitment at preset intervals. Your rewards don’t have to be big or expensive, but do try to make it something associated in some way with your goal. This adds incentive and extra motivation.

Good Luck.