ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

How to change any habit



Our lives are comprised of a series of habits. These habits are daily patterns that can positively or negatively influence how we think, act, and feel. We are often unaware of our habits; they have become second-nature to us because we have been doing them for so long. We have taught ourselves how to function on auto pilot and we often forget that we can change any habit that we have started—even if we have been doing it for years. To change a habit, though, it’s important to understand how they work. Habits are composed of three main parts: cue, routine, and reward.

The formation of every habit starts with a cue. A cue is something that triggers the habit. This could be feeling uncomfortable that triggers wanting a drink or feeling lethargic and wanting to exercise. A cue could also be the smell of a specific scent or walking into a building that triggers certain memories. The cue triggers a craving. The cue makes your brain thing you’re missing something and need to find it.

After the cue comes the routine. The routine is the actions to get to your reward after you notice the cue. The routine could be walking to the fridge to get out ice cream or putting on your running shoes to get ready to exercise. It could be playing a specific song you like or eating a certain food. The routine gets you your reward.

Finally, we have the reward. The reward is what makes you feel satisfied and happy. This can be the feeling of accomplishment after a long run or relief after turning in your last term paper.

Altering the routine while keeping the cue and reward the same is the key to changing any habit. Once you can change that routine you will find an even greater reward in your new and healthier habits. Think of it this way— if you want to quit drinking, you go to AA meetings instead of buying alcohol. The cue is the same: you wanted the drink because you felt anxious, but the routine is different; you went to an AA meeting and felt appreciated and a part of a community The reward winds up being the same—you feel happy and not anxious anymore in your own skin.

Alternatively, let’s say you want to have more energy during the day without relying on stimulants like caffeine. The cue (getting sleepy during the day) and the reward (feeling more awake) are the same, but your routine needs to change. Right now, you reach for coffee or chocolate Instead, try taking a short 5 minute walk or doing 50 jumping jacks. It will provide the same reward. You will feel more awake and have more energy.

You gain more awareness about why you do the things you do by noticing what your habits are. It’s also not always easy to change a habit when there are many factors that contribute to you doing what you do. If you are really struggling with taking that first step, remember to reach out for help from a therapist or someone you trust. Sometimes the first step is the hardest step to take and often the one we need the most help with but it gets easier to alter habits in general after that.