• Meghan Lafferty

Change Your Habits

Habits are significant parts of your life. They are what drive you daily actions, thoughts, and routines. You can create and have habits for every single component of your life from your finances to your health. So how in the world can you have more control over your habits...encouraging the ones that benefit you and replacing the ones that are no longer serving you.

I want to invite you to think of you habits as a framework containing a 3 step process- which can be described in more detail in The Power of Habits . The 3 steps are a cue-routine and reward.

The cue is what triggers your habit. The cue is the trigger that prompts you to carry out your habits. There are some common categories that they can fall into

  • Emotional state (craving a distraction from work)

  • Time of day (looking at the clock and realizing it’s “time” to eat)

  • Sight (seeing that your laundry basket is full and ready to be washed)

  • Location (walking past the break room and seeing candy and deciding to stop and grab one)

  • Another person (meeting your best friend and giving them a hug)

The cue is an extremely powerful part of the habit loop because our brain responds to it automatically. To be honest many of us are not even aware of the the cues that trigger the routine.

The routine is what you do. It is the action you carry out. It’s the part of the habit that you would want to encourage (like eating veggies) or replace (like snacking mindlessly on chips on the couch)

Duhigg recommends that if you have a habit that is no longer serving you and you want to make a change, instead of just completely cutting it out, it’s so much more beneficial and rewarding to just replace the “bad” routine with a healthier more fulfilling and beneficial one.

The Reward is what you get. It may not always seem like it but every single habit ends in a reward. Take washing your hair for example. That is a second natured habit for many of us. The reward may be knowing your hair feels fresh and clean or the scent that it has after it is freshly washed.

If the reward is positive, your brain will remember the habit and want to repeat it. A reward can be anything, but most commonly is a feeling or something tangible.

There is one last thing I want to mention in regards to habit loops. The thing that fuels your habits is what's called a craving. When a habit is repeated again and again and consistently delivers a positive reward, the brain develops a craving for it. Think of cravings as the fuel to your car, except these cravings fuel the habit loop, making the routine more and more automatic. They’re what makes the habit stick in the long term.

Here is a 4 step process that Charles Duhigg explains in his book:


The reward is the easiest part to identify. What do you actually do? Eat candy every afternoon?

When you outline your habits routine, keep in mind that habits can have variance. Meaning some afternoons you may eat candy and some days it could be potato chips. If that happens to be the case, your routine is snacking on something sugary or salty around the same time every afternoon.

Identifying the reward is pretty simple as well. In the example I just mentioned the reward is a piece of candy and the sugar rush that comes with it.


Can you explain what is fueling your urge to say eat the candy? This may require some time and experimentation to identify it.

To pinpoint your craving….you can replace the routine with a different one until you find something that is also satisfying. For example, the next time you crave candy, try eating an apple or something else instead. Check in with yourself 15-20 minutes later...are you still craving the candy? If the apple or whatever you replaced it with is satisfyin to you, then maybe the craving behind your habit loop is hunger. If the candy urge persists, continue experimenting

If it’s not hunger then maybe try getting up and chatting with a coworker or moving your body. After you do this and change up the routine, sit back down and ask yourself if you feel satisfied. If so, you know that your habit is being driven by a craving for distraction not hunger. If you still in fact are not feeling satisfied and continue to crave the candy or whatever else it may be, continue performing a different routine until you can pinpoint what would really satisfy your craving.

If that seems like a lot of work and the thought of it overwhelms another really great strategy to use would be to just check in with yourself at that moment. Ask yourself what you need in that particular moment? Maybe you’re tired and want a snack that provides energy, but what you really need is a nap to reenergize. Maybe you’re frustrated with a work project and want to die into a bag of chips, but what you really need is just the opportunity to vent. The craving behind a habit can be driven by all sorts of needs and wants, including energy, rest, comfort, and connection to identify a few.


Remember this is the trigger that prompts the habit. You can simply do this by asking yourself a few questions:

  • What time is it?

  • Where are you?

  • How are you feeling

  • When was the last time you ate (skipping meals and getting too hungry can trigger a craving)

  • What's going on in your environment? Are you in a place or an event that inspires you to eat?

  • Who are you with? How might other influence your choices?

  • What are you thinking? What are you saying to yourself? How is your self-talk a cue to your choices?


Let’s go back to the candy example I mentioned earlier, say the cue is a not-so-exciting task you work on every afternoon, and the candy provides the reward of distraction.

Since you can’t really change the cue (work tasks) and the reward you crave (distraction), focus instead on finding a healthier routine you can perform like taking a walk or chatting with a coworker

Once you decide on your new routine, work on implementing it. You may have to experiment with a few different ones, so just be patient with yourself and know that this a process and does take some time. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or angered by the process take a step back and truly identify why shifting this specific habit is important for you.

Looking for more inspiration, tools and resources to help you live a healthy life? Head on over and check out my private women's Facebook group: Simply Feeling Well. Each week I pop on LIVE to chat about different healthy living topics and share some of my most helpful tips, resources and tools that you can apply to your life right away to help you feel your best!

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