Case Studies: Habit Transformation

Have you already tried and failed at yet another New Year’s resolution? Have you ever tried to kick a bad habit or start a new one? Do you always start well and then continuously fail? Most of us know what we need to do to improve our wellbeing.  We know what makes us feel good and what makes us feel bad. So why is it so hard to make changes?

Last year Hälsa Wellbeing ran two 6-week Habit Transformation courses for NHS staff. The course comprised of 6 sessions that aimed to help individual to break or start a desired Habit that would improve their Wellbeing. Using the latest science in Habit Transformation and the power of a group that met regularly, this is what happened …

Case Study One

Who: Health & Social Care Manager (Primary Care)

Where: Kirklees, West Yorkshire

What did you expect: A one day presentation type workshop with some generic, albeit helpful, “takeaways” to try to improve bad habits.

What did you learn: Too much to fully list!

  • The psychology around habit forming – understanding this gave a really solid foundation.
  • Problematic habits need to be replaced with a different “action” that you feel is positive (or neutral).
  • Set a goal and develop a series of steps to achieve it.
  • Start VERY small, embed a little change then build on that success..
  • Don’t worry if you fail, just reset.  Only move onto the next step to your goal when you have ensured the current one has become a habit.
  • Knowledge about how food and environment influences can impact on cravings, mood and sleep.
  • Skills – how to better respond to challenges, for example food/drink cravings.
  • Self-care techniques, e.g. hand reflexology instruction.

What changed or shifted for you:

  • My attitude has move from a fear of failure and desire for quick, dramatic change, to accepting more realistic goal and anticipating some success.
  • I have achieved changes in lifestyle that I would never have expected, for example I don’t lie in bed praying it wasn’t morning and I didn’t have to get out of bed and get dressed.
  • I have transformed what I eat for breakfast and I’ve stuck to (my now) beloved breakfast and my dried fruit of choice is …… goji berries.  I tried my old favourite “treat” breakfast and found I actually prefer Rebecca’s Repast.
  • These changes feel sustainable and have resulted in a much more positive frame of mind.  I have changed many aspects of my diet and alcohol intake.
  • I drink less and have discovered that although I don’t like lager in general, I love non-alcoholic lager.  I’m drinking less alcohol and even have shandy made with non-alcoholic lager. I also poured a gin and tonic one night over Christmas, then “rode the craving” and didn’t drink it – a (near-ish to) Christmas Miracle*!
  • I have changed my attitude to drinking to the extent that, whereas previously I would consider buying a non-alcoholic equivalent at a similar price to the alcohol version a waste of money, now I choose 0% Gordon’s Gin because I enjoy the taste so I’m not drawn to drink just to have alcohol.
  • I have been able to reduce my intake of protein pump inhibitor medication prescribed for severe acid stomach reflux.
  • Family have commented that I’ve stopped biting my nails ……… and that wasn’t a habit I was trying to give up!
  • One of the biggest changes is trying to change a habit, failing but not giving up.

What’s the USP (Unique selling point): The programme is multi-faceted and holistic – it provides knowledge, understanding, skills and support through shared group experience, reflection and positive reinforcement by Rebecca .  This encourages and enables sustainable personal change.

Final thought: These sessions are life changing and out rank any other health and/or wellbeing  training or coaching I’ve had in the past.  Missing any left me feeling I was likely to have missed beneficial information, tools or techniques that would help me achieve more. Rebecca’s humour, patience, support but mainly her insight and knowledge coupled with the benefit of being part of a group who are sharing steps along a similar journey.

 Case Study Two

Who: Procurement Officer

Where: Bradford Council

What did you expect: It’s funny as on the first session I didn’t realise that it was a six week course, I thought it was just a one off.  So, when Rebecca said she was running it for the next six weeks I sort of did a big gulp and thought what have I started!  However, I thought straight away that I should commit to it fully and once I’d announced I wanted to stop biting my nails (which wasn’t easy), that was it, I was in.

What did you learn: The course gave me a real insight in to habit formation and helped me to understand why I had only got so far in the past.  It’s given me a new focus to stopping my habit and how I can actually carry on doing that.

What changed or shifted for you: I have broken the habit of nail biting. Something I have tried to do many times before.  For me one of the key things I learnt from the sessions was focusing on breaking this habit down into little wins and not getting hung up on some distant long-term goal.  Having the anchor statement has really helped and also realising that I will have small setbacks and that is normal.  I definitely feel that I’ve got a method now behind what I’m doing.

What’s the USP (Unique selling point): Rebecca has been great, full of enthusiasm, knowledge, examples and ideas.  The slides she uses are spot on.  It’s great to be part of a group that meet every week, that has really helped me (even though I don’t know any of the people outside of the course!)  The homework has been good to keep me thinking during the week.  I also like the fact that Rebecca always stresses that it doesn’t matter if you arrive late or don’t make each week.  The links to external videos are also good.

Final thought: Just like to say thanks again, I’ve found the sessions really helpful and feel like I’ve made a great start in ending my nail-biting habit and now I have a much clearer idea of how to do it.

It’s good that the course is set up both for people wanting to change “bad” habits and also if you want to create new “good” ones. It’s great to hear that you’re going to be running another course, I’ve really enjoyed it.

Case Study Three

Who: Family Support Service

Where: Huddersfield

What did you expect: I didn’t know that there were a series of sessions, I joined week 3 (I think) not knowing this, which was a shame, but hasn’t stopped me from getting a lot of support, understanding about my own goals.

What did you learn: I’ve learnt that being part of a group has helped me understand how we form habits, and how we can break habits, in a different way. Not just looking at the research and statistics and theory. But by talking with other people trying to break habits of all different types I have also realised whatever the habit we all have lots in common and there are lots of similarities in how we break those habits.

Attending also has helped me to bring the ‘dry’ fact and figures to life. Looking and supporting each other in practical terms/ real life situations is very different to the theory. When we would try and look at each other’s barriers to change, breaking down why something was or wasn’t working. This helped me better understand what barriers I was facing in my plans to break the habit of smoking.

What changed or shifted for you: I feel that before I saw smoking as completely different habit to other habits.  Somehow, knowing that I have much more in common with the others in the group, who are trying to change/ break their habits, there are more similarities than differences. Also, that its ok, to slip up, and that I judge myself more harshly than other people do, particularly when I do slip up, don’t achieve the targets I had set for myself.

What’s the USP (Unique selling point): On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed joining a group, with an eclectic mix of characters, who have made me laugh, that’s not always too serious, but that have a common thread and goals. Everyone has been non-judgemental, eager to support everyone in the group. I’ve enjoyed hearing about little wins and how, in practical terms strategies are working. Also when they haven’t been working so well and as a group we have given each other a lift, unpicked why something didn’t work and supported each other to continue to try.I liked having a small task, piece of homework, to try every week and I didn’t feel bad sharing with the group if/ when it didn’t always go to plan.

Final thought: I feel like I’ve only just started on this journey of change. In the past I have joined one off sessions/ webinars etc. which I’ve left feeling empowered, energised to make changes but this energy and motivation has then dwindled. Leaving me feeling I have failed. It’s then a little bit harder to try again. I would really like to continue with the group. Thanks again, it’s been a life affirming group to be a part off. And even though I only attended two sessions, I’ve have loved every minute.

Case Study Four

Who: Social Worker

Where: Kirklees

What did you learn: The benefits of the group were identifying areas where behaviours were stuck or unhelpful, which spanned both personal and professional lives.  As home working is the current norm, creating structure and routine outside office settings was one key area that was identified and several strategies were offered.   Goal setting and receiving support and advice helped to achieve healthier attitudes and increase overall health and wellbeing.  The coursework was structured and sessions were covered and revisited when needed to address specific needs identified by group members.   A common theme the group identified was of drifting along without realising unhelpful habits were being formed.

What changed or shifted for you: I personally moved on from unhealthy eating habits, social media overuse and interrupted sleep.  Small changes have made a big difference.

What’s the USP (Unique selling point): The course provided focus, common problems were shared and positive strategies were provided by Rebecca, who is an excellent trainer  It provided a safe space to share with others and feel less isolated during this period of home working and less office-based interaction. The course had accessible content, further reading and discussion points and was extremely interesting and informative.

Final thought: If the course were to run again, I would be very interested in attending, for the support/advice and new perspectives the course content provided.