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Habit Loops

A quick update. This is my 20th article! I want to announce that I have a handful of spots available for coaching in 2023. I work with busy, ambitious people and help them find balance in their lives. If you are interested, please reach out via Without further ado, let’s learn about building happiness habits.

A habit is something that you do repeatedly, almost automatically and requires little conscious thought.

Life is a series of habits. A series of things you do without much thought. How many times have you driven your car and arrived at the destination with almost no recall of how you got there? Driving is complex. Putting on your seatbelt, checking your rear view mirror, adjusting the gears, turning the steering wheel and avoiding the letterbox. All of these occur before you even leave the driveway and they are all done habitually, without much thought. Similarly, when you brush your teeth, you likely hold the brush with the same hand and start with the same tooth every time. When you put pants on, the same leg probably always goes in first. I put my left leg in. Before you learnt the skill, driving a car, brushing your teeth and putting your pants on required a lot of thought. Through repetition, it became a habit. We can build happiness habits through repetition so that they become as habitual as brushing your teeth.

What makes a habit? Every habit consists of a habit loop with 4 parts: a cue, routine, reward and craving.
The cue is the trigger for a habit. It can be a time, place, object, event or an emotion. The routine is the behaviour or action itself. The reward is what the routine leads to. It generally move us away from something unpleasant or towards something pleasant.

When you repeat the habit, eventually you develop cravings. Cravings anticipate the reward before you perform the routine. If you do not perform the routine, you feel uneasy. This uneasiness is relieved if you perform the routine and therefore drives us to act.

Whether it is a useful habit or not, cravings drive us towards the reward. Craving a cheeseburger is not ideal. Craving exercise may add years to your life. Either way, cravings don’t discriminate. They work in the same way by driving you towards a reward.

Here are some examples of common habit loops.

Friday night after workDrinks with work friendsTowards a sense of connection, belonging or relaxation
See cookies on tableEat a cookieTowards more energy, a “sugar high” or feeling good
Feel anxiousAvoid peopleAway from further anxiety provoking situations
Wake up in the morningPut gym clothes on and workoutTowards a sense of fitness and energy
Hear phone notificationCheck phoneTowards pleasure or away from boredom

Once we grasp the essence of habit loops, we can build new habits and break bad ones. Over the next few weeks, I will explore how you can master the habit loop at each level – the cue, the routine, the reward and the craving. I officially welcome you to the path of becoming a habit ninja.

I would like to thank Charles Duhigg for his book, The Power of Habit, and James Clear for his book, Atomic Habits. What I have learnt from these two books together with my knowledge about happiness and health has allowed me to help countless patients and clients. It’s books like these that inspire me to write my own book “Do Happy” so that it helps someone else in the same way.

Much love to you and of course, myself.

Dr G

If you want to find out more about coaching, email me at
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