5 – 10 minutes
After two long years of masks and social distancing, Carnival season shined upon us like the golden sun. Carnival Village is, as we speak, filled to the brim with the fiery energy we all longed for so much. The final festivities are passing, as we are patiently waiting for the big event: the Grand Carnival Parade and its incredible display of colours. Though, weeks of BBQ, spirits, and a lack of sleep take their toll as most of our healthy habits were shoved in the corner. Some of us forgot the taste of vegetables while others can’t remember the rush you get after a soul-crushing workout. But what if I told you this might be the perfect moment for new habits?
Table of Content
- The Foundation of your newfound Habit: Cue, Routine, Reward.
- Putting your Habit into Practice
- Your New habit in Action
- Manage your expectations
- Missed opportunities do not exist
The colourful identity of Sint Maarten Carnival is paired with eating delicious foods and drinking ungodly amounts of alcohol. Though, overindulging during this unique time of year after is nothing to feel guilty about. The problem with these types of times, is that they usually result in our healthy habits slinking like tails tucked between our legs.
The past few weeks, however, might have just been the biggest reset button you pressed in your life. Because, after this break from your normal routine, restarting your daily rhythm is the perfect moment to implement those long-awaited habits (which you probably still had laying around from Christmas).
Getting back on track and eating healthy can be tricky after some time off, though. But whether you are looking to get join to our daily WOD, refresh your nutrition habits moving into the rest of the year, or wanting to sleep more consistently, getting your head in the game is key.
Investing in new habits can feel like an insurmountable mental challenge. Luckily, there are ways to take up arms against that ‘insurmountable’ mindset. Knowledge of theory and tricks surrounding habits make it easier to wrap your head around positive changes and compound them into your daily routine.
Therefore, in this blog we are going to look forward, together. By looking at what habits are, and how we can trick our brain into accepting them, the finish to this Carnival season might be as good as the party themselves.
The Foundation of your newfound Habit: Cue, Routine, Reward.
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it was reported that it takes about 66 days before a new behaviour becomes automatic2. Meaning that it will a minimum of about 2 months for your habit to become part of your life. Finding inspiration for building new habits comes from the realisation that is habits are a process, not an event.
According to MIT scientists, habits loops are behavioural patterns that are etched into our life. The pattern is built up of a cue – the trigger, a routine – the action, and a reward – the benefit.
Understanding how habits form and are performed, allows us to actively pursue the habits we want. After tricking our brain with a notification, timepoint or smell (cue) we can pursue it with the activity we want (routine), which will undoubtedly result in whatever we are aiming to improve (reward).
Putting your Habit into Practice
We start building our habits by thinking about what habit we want, or want to change. Because a habit is a formula that the mind automatically follows, you need to re-engineer that formula by creating a new habit loop.
With the questions below, think of a healthy habit by planning for the cue and reward you desire. The reward does not need to be overly elaborate, as the goal is to establish a positive association with putting the habit into practice. Remember to define your success in measurable terms!
What is the Habit?
What is the Cue?
What is the Routine?
What is the Reward?
Your New habit in Action
Putting your habits to the test will be increasingly difficult, the more latent the reward is. Still, consistency is key as we aim for the 66-day timepoint. The only way to get to Day 66, though, is to start with Day 1. So, forget about the number and focus on doing the work. Actively look for the ques you set for yourself and remember yourself that enacting on the routines is essential to success.
One way to successfully incorporate habits into your life, is by making your goals public and developing a support team. Reach out to one of the coaches and tell them what you aim for! Furthermore, you could Ask your family, friends, or colleagues to help hold you accountable.
Manage your Expectations
People who have taken a long break (read: Carnival) from exercise are likely to find themselves in a situation that they may not be able to do the things they once could. Our fitness can be negatively impacted in a relatively short time of less nutritious food in combination with a lack off sleep.
Common reactions for people that cannot seem to restart their habit or find themselves not being about execute the way they could is anger or frustration. However, angry, or frustrated people can set unrealistic goals, or try to fit habits that are too intense or too hard.
Therefore, before starting your new habit, engage in self-examination to examine who you are right now and where you stand according to your habit. Accordingly, create attainable goals that motivate you to get back on track and re-engage in the healthy activities and habits.
Missed opportunities do not exist
What is interesting, is that the researchers that investigated habits, also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if we screw up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process. Building habits is a marathon, not a sprint.
One way to cope with messing up, is to make plan for when you mess up. In this plan, formulate what you are going to do when you falter. How are you going to pick yourself up again? What went wrong? How can you avoid this?
But after a mess up, write down what caused you to stumble. Be as honest as possible to yourself. Even more importantly, don’t be afraid to re-engineer your habit plan.
How the Post-Carnival Time is the Best Time to Build new Habits
Building a habit is something undeniably difficult. But with the right knowledge, it is something we work on. By strategizing your longed-for habit, the triggering cue, the following routine, and the possible rewards we can visualize the growth process and establish the right foundation for said habit.
Though, when we are going to try, we are going to fail, as setbacks are undeniably part of the process. But before we experience a setback, remember to be kind to yourself by managing realistic expectations surrounding your new habits.
Nevertheless, right now, after weeks of celebrating the long-awaited Carnival is the time to start working on making and maintaining habits from which you will profit for years to come. Establishing these habits takes time and effort, but mostly it takes perseverance.
Author: Jeroen van de Poll, MSc.
 Lohr, J. (2015). Does Napping Really Help Cognitive Function? Scientific American Mind, 26(5), 70.
 Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009.