Video: Five Triggers That Promote Good Habits



I learned about The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg while on a power walk in Windsor  Terrace, Brooklyn.  I ran into a neighbor who recommended the book to me knowing   I like to listen to self help audiobooks. The very next morning I downloaded it from the ITunes store.  The Power of Habit explains a simple three-step process that all habits follow. This cycle, known as The Habit Loop, says that each habit consists of…

The Trigger: the event that starts the habit.

The Routine: the behavior that you perform, the habit itself.

The Reward: the benefit that is associated with the behavior.

Each phase of the loop is important for building new habits, but today I’d like to discuss the first factor: habit triggers. There are five primary ways that a new habit can be triggered. If you understand each of them, then you can select the right one for the particular habit that you are working on. 

The 5 triggers are:

Trigger 1: Time

Trigger 2: Location

Trigger 3: Preceding Event

Trigger 4: Emotional State

Trigger 5: Other People

At times , customers come to Stoop Juice seeking to change how they eat, our job is to create a plan which helps them reach their goal.  Some of the customers know exactly what they want and creating a plan is easy an straight forward.  Others want change but have a though time describing their goal.  In those instances, we help customers clearly define their goals, create and recommend the appropriate cleanse and offer life style adjustment suggestions.  When this is the case, our goal is to help customers create new habits to reach their goals as easy as possible.  These videos explain the five habit triggers in detail to Stoop Juice customers or anyone who finds them useful.  Enjoy. 


Trigger 1: Time

Time is perhaps the most common way to trigger a new habit. Common morning habits are just one example. Waking up in the morning usually triggers a number of habits: go to the bathroom, take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, make a cup of coffee, etc.  There are also less commonly recognized ways that time triggers our behavior. For example, if you pay attention you may notice that you repeat certain tasks mindlessly at different points during the day:  anyone for tea at 4pm? heading off to get a drink at the same time each Friday evening after work, going for a run at the same time each morning, and so on.  If these patterns are bad habits, then you may want to take stock of how you feel at this time of day. In many cases, your habits are a signal of how you feel. Bored? Maybe your afternoon snacking habit is a way of breaking up the monotony of the day. Feeling anxious? Maybe your morning run is a way to release endorphins to relieve your anxiety.  Another person feeling anxious may reach for the big bag of potato chips in the pantry. The point is, if you understand the reason why these habits pop up at the same time each day, then it can become easier to find a new habit to fill the void. Bad habits are replaced, not eliminated.

Application: Time-based triggers can also be used to stick with routines over and over again.. For example, every morning at 5am I do the 6 Phase meditation which promotes harmony, task completion and goal setting in my life. The 6 phases are: 

Connection (See yourself for what we all are, a piece of consciousness directly connected to every other life form on the planet)

Gratitude (Know that when you express gratitude for beautiful moments in life, you open the way for these moments to repeat themselves and grow in terms of their magnitude)

Forgiveness (Know that at a deeper level we are one, and any negative charge towards any other living person is a charge against yourself)

Visualizing (As you wrap up, mentally tell yourself, let this or something better unfold in my life)

Daily Intention (Visualize yourself making today amazingly wonderful too)

Blessings (Know that you create your own luck and the universe has your back)

Trigger 2: Location

If you have ever walked into your house right before the big game starts on TV, see several pizza pies on the counter, and eaten them just because they are there in front of you, then you understand the power of location on our behavior.  Being in the moment will help you create good habits as you’ll be aware of your surroundings and avoid the mindless bad habits since location-based triggers are not simply things we respond to, they can also be things we create. According to David Neal and Wendy Wood researchers from Duke University, new habits are actually easier to perform in new locations.  One theory is that we mentally assign habits to a particular location. This means that all of the current places that you’re familiar with (your home, your office, etc.) already have behaviors, habits and routines assigned to them. If you want to build new habits in these familiar locations, then you need to overcome the triggers and cues that your brain has already assigned to that area. Meanwhile, building a new habit in a new location is like having a blank slate. You don’t have to overcome any pre-existing triggers.  Application: When I arrive at Stoop Juice, I clean up, change to my work clothes and setup. After setup, I have 32 ounces of green juice.  My trigger for my juice is the completion of morning setup. Some days I don’t feel like having a juice, but the location-based trigger helps me overcome that and I make and drink my green juice daily.  For those of you who juice at home, find a similar place to trigger the juice drinking habit.


Trigger 3: Preceding Event

Many habits are a response to something else that happens in your life. Your alarm clock goes off, you wake up and get out of bed. The unread notification bar lights up on a friends email, so you click it and read it.  Someone’s knocking on your door, you walk over and see who it is and you greet them. These are examples of habits that are triggered by a preceding event.  When it comes to triggers that are useful for building new habits, I find preceding events easy to utilize and useful. Once you understand habit stacking you can develop all sorts of ways to tie new habits into preceding events. (for instance: “after doing sit-ups in the morning, I go for my morning run.”)  Application: Since 2010, I have used a preceding event to stick with a daily walking habit. Each night, after dinner, (weather permitting) I go for an hour walk.  By making my walk my after dinner nightcap, I’ve created an exercise habit which I can always do regardless of age.  Once I finish my dinner I start to think about my walk and how my walk will also help with my sleep.  Since dinner is a daily occurrence, stacking my walk to dinner makes my walk a daily occurrence too.  Think of ways you can use a preceding Event to encourage a good habit you would like to have.  The frequency you’d like to perform the habit should be inline with the preceding event.

Trigger 4: Emotional State

In my experience, emotional state is a common trigger for both good and bad habits. For example, you may have a habit of eating when you feel depressed. Or, someone mourning a friend or family member who passed away in a DWI accident may do a better job of self regulating and advocating awareness about drunk driving.  Emotions are very common triggers for our behavior.  Our opinion of the event triggers an array of emotions to choose from.  The emotions we choose to keep will determine if we build good or bad habits. When we witness a co-worker break their cup, we easily reply these things happen.  So when our own cup breaks, we should also respond as when it happens to someone else.  In the case of death, death is natural as we all are going to die.  Our opinion of death is what effects our emotional state not death itself.   In other words, you have to be emotional and aware at the same time … and that can be hard to do. Paying attention is a powerful, but difficult, way to build better habits.  Application: I try to be true to myself by being able to express how I feel whether happy or sad. I understand that not all days are going to be ideal and as I constantly seek daily happiness knowing disappointments are part of life.  I remember my Grandmother’s funeral in which I cried by her casket for nearly 30 minutes.  I felt such a relief being able to express my sadness knowing that I wasn’t crying because she passed away.  I understood I was crying for selfish reasons, I just wanted more time with my grandmother.  I felt so much better afterwards since I was able to express my sadness while simultaneously grow from the experience.  As I reflect, I take comfort in knowing my grandmother’s spirit is very much alive in me thru her teaching, memories of times we shared, stories and love for one another.  Regardless of how tragic we perceive an event,  our opinion of the event is what’s going to influence our emotional state.  We can’t control events and rate of occurrence but we can control our opinion of these events.


Trigger 5: Other People

People you surround yourself with can play a role on your habits and behaviors. What may be a surprise is just how big of an impact these people can make. One study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if your friend becomes obese, then your risk of obesity increases by 57 percent — even if your friend lives hundreds of miles away.  As far as I can tell, the best way to make use of this information is to surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself.  Application: I’m not a drinker, but nearly every time I go out with friends drinks are involved. Why is that? I guess it’s a popular way to socialize.  Some friends tell me all they really need is one drink to take the edge off an otherwise stressful day. The perceived relaxed feelings makes for enjoyable socializing.  The socializing part is what I seek.  When I’m in this setting I usually buy the first round, order a hard cider, nurse it and enjoy the company of friends.  I’ll buy additional rounds if need be, only drinking seltzer water the rest of the way.  This maybe off putting to some people, this is why I order the seltzer water in an unassuming manner.  Those who openly take exception to me not drinking I tell them that I feel relaxed already and don’t pass judgement on those who choose to drink alcohol.  It’s my choice and I’m comfortable with it.  This may seem a little trying and cumbersome, but if you express yourself in a clear and genuine way,  socialize and engage in a kind hearted manner despite not drinking alcohol, most people come around.  Before You Choose Your Trigger.  No matter what trigger you choose for your new habit, there is one important thing to understand. The key to choosing a successful trigger is to pick a trigger that is very specific and immediately actionable.  For example, let’s say you want to build a new habit of making your bed every morning when you wake up. You might start by choosing a time-based trigger and saying something like, “I’ll make my bed in the morning.” This might work, but it’s not very specific. Do you make your bed at the beginning of your morning? At the end? Any time?  Alternatively, you could create a trigger around a very specific preceding event that happens right around your morning. For example, “When I finish brushing my teeth, I’ll make my bed.” In this case, the very specific action of “brushing your teeth” is a perfect trigger for what to do next (you make the bed). There is no mistaking when you should do the new habit.  As always, self-experimentation is the only real answer. Play around with these five habit triggers and see what works for you.


© Stoop Juice 2017