Do you ever find yourself eager to make positive changes in your life, only to struggle with maintaining them over time? Whether it’s committing to a new exercise routine or a healthier diet, practising mindfulness, or trying to learn a new language, establishing new routines and behaviour changes can be challenging. The good news is there are ways to navigate these struggles and setbacks. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the 7 Rs, a practical framework for navigating change based on the principles of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). The 7 Rs offer simple yet effective strategies to help us turn newly adopted behaviours into routines

 

Building Lasting Habits: The 7 Rs Framework from ACT

Photo by Daily Nouri on Unsplash

 

 

Why behaviour change is so difficult

 

Despite our best intentions, changing our behaviour is rarely an easy feat. There are several reasons why transforming our habits and routines can prove so difficult. Firstly, we naturally tend to gravitate towards familiarity and routine, as they provide a sense of comfort and security. Introducing new behaviours disrupts this sense of familiarity and can trigger resistance and discomfort. 

Additionally, habits tend to be deeply ingrained within our subconscious mind, formed over years of repetition and reinforcement. Breaking free from these patterns requires conscious effort and persistence. Fear of failure, self-doubt, and limiting beliefs also often stand in the way of adopting new routines. 

Behaviour change is a complex and multifaceted process that requires effort, perseverance and self-awareness. Understanding the underlying reasons why change is so hard can help us navigate these obstacles more effectively and ultimately achieve our desired outcomes. And fortunately, there are tools we can use to make us stay on track.

 

 

The 7 Rs for lasting change

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy focused on helping individuals develop psychological flexibility. It emphasizes mindfulness, acceptance of one’s thoughts and feelings, and commitment to actions aligned with one’s values. Renowned psychologist and author Russ Harris has been instrumental in popularising ACT principles, making them accessible to a wider audience through his presentations and bestselling books, including “The Happiness Trap“.

Among the techniques introduced by Russ Harris, the Seven Rs approach stands out as a practical and effective framework for facilitating lasting change. Whether you’re seeking to improve your well-being, overcome obstacles, or find greater fulfilment, the Seven Rs offer a roadmap to help you stay focused on your goals and sustain meaningful transformation.

Now, let’s delve deeper into each of the Seven Rs and explore how they can help us on our journey towards lasting transformation.

 

1. Reminders

When trying to achieve lasting behaviour changes, consistent reminders can be invaluable in keeping your intentions at the forefront of your mind, serving as gentle prompts to help you stay aligned with your goals throughout the day. 

The power of reminders lies in their simplicity and accessibility. There are various ways to incorporate reminders into your daily routines. For instance, placing a sticky note on the fridge with a motivational message, setting up a pop-up notification on your phone with a meaningful quote or affirmation, or using a symbol or acronym that resonates with your intentions can serve as powerful reminders.

An example could be starting your day with a reminder on your bedside table, prompting you to practice mindfulness before getting out of bed. Throughout the day, as you navigate through tasks and challenges, subtle reminders strategically placed in your environment can encourage you to pause, recentre, and make conscious choices aligned with your intentions. Whether it’s a short sentence reminding you to take a deep breath during moments of stress or a symbol that represents your core values, these reminders act as constant companions, guiding you towards your desired behaviours and outcomes.

 

2. Records

Maintaining records of your actions, thoughts, and emotions while trying to pick up a new habit will allow you to identify patterns, celebrate victories, and learn from setbacks. Whether it’s writing down notes in a journal, using a digital app, or maintaining a log on your computer, the act of recording helps to stay mindful of your actions and their impact on your well-being.

By documenting when and where you engage in your desired behaviours and any challenges you encounter, you gain clarity on what works for you and what may need adjustment. Additionally, recording your achievements and milestones allows you to celebrate your progress and maintain motivation on your path towards self-improvement.

 

3. Rewards

The third pillar of the 7 Rs framework is Rewards. Rewards come in various forms, from internal acknowledgement to external incentives, and can provide reinforcement and encouragement. 

One possible form of reward is offering yourself kind and encouraging self-talk, such as celebrating your achievements or acknowledging your efforts. For example, after completing a challenging workout session, you could tell yourself, “Great job! It wasn’t easy, but you did it!” This internal validation fosters a positive mindset and reinforces your commitment to your goals.

External rewards, such as sharing your success with loved ones or treating yourself, can also be effective motivators. Whether it’s enjoying a favourite activity, rewarding yourself with a massage or spa day, or simply taking a moment to savour your progress – recognising and celebrating your achievements will reinforce your commitment to your personal growth and positive behaviour.

 

4. Routines

Establishing regular routines or rituals is essential to integrating new habits into your life, making them more automatic and less reliant on your willpower. By incorporating new behaviours into existing routines or creating dedicated time slots for them, you can reduce decision fatigue and make it easier to follow through. If you aim to write a daily gratitude journal, for instance, you could integrate it into your morning or evening routine, making it a natural part of your day. 

Whether it’s setting aside time for exercise or personal development activities, consistency is key. Over time, consistently repeating these routines will help solidify the new behaviours, making them habitual and effortless.

 

5. Relationships

Social support plays a crucial role in sustaining behaviour change and fostering personal growth. By surrounding yourself with individuals who support you, you can create a network of accountability and encouragement. Seeking out a trusted friend, family member, or mentor who can provide guidance and encouragement can be invaluable on your journey of behaviour change. This person can offer accountability, celebrate your successes, and also provide support during challenging times.

Additionally, sharing your goals and progress with loved ones can strengthen your commitment and motivation. Whether it’s checking in regularly with a support person or sharing your records and reflections with them, relationships provide a sense of community and encouragement that fuels progress.

 

6. Reflecting

The sixth pillar of the 7 Rs framework is Reflection. Taking time for introspection and self-reflection is essential for understanding your behaviour patterns, identifying areas for improvement, and celebrating your progress. 

Regularly reflecting on your actions, thoughts, and emotions allows you to gain insight into what drives your behaviour and how it aligns with your values. It also provides an opportunity to recognise triggers that may lead to setbacks or relapses, allowing you to develop strategies for managing them more effectively in the future. By acknowledging both your successes and challenges without judgment, you can approach your new lifestyle changes with greater ease and confidence.

Whether it’s through journaling, meaningful conversations, or simply taking a few moments of quiet contemplation, self-reflection fosters insight and self-awareness. You can gain clarity and perspective by asking yourself probing questions, such as “What is working well?” and “What can I improve?” and embracing your vulnerability.

 

7. Restructuring your environment

Our surroundings can influence our efforts to change habits. By intentionally redesigning your environment to support your goals, you can make it easier for yourself to implement behaviour changes. Examples could be organising your workspace to minimise distractions to help you stay focused and productive. Similarly, you can stock your kitchen cabinets with healthy food options, making it easier and more convenient for you to make nutritious choices throughout the day. A piece of advice I frequently give to my online counselling clients who struggle with committing to exercise routines is to prepare their gym bag the night before. This simple step helps eliminate potential barriers and increases the likelihood of following through with the fitness routine.

By aligning your surroundings with your intentions, you can create an environment that fosters consistency and supports your journey of behaviour change. Whether it’s removing temptations or creating prompts that remind you of your goals, restructuring your environment can play a significant role in helping you achieve lasting transformation.

 

 

Implementing the Seven Rs

 

The 7 Rs approach offers a systematic and effective strategy to overcome obstacles, stay focused on your goals, and cultivate sustainable habits. By embracing reminders, keeping records, celebrating rewards, embracing routines, nurturing relationships, fostering reflection, and restructuring your environment, you can pave the way for profound and sustainable behaviour changes instead of having to rely solely on willpower or short-lived motivation.

The 7 Rs framework from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can provide a roadmap for navigating this transformative process, offering practical and actionable techniques to guide you in establishing enduring habits and reaching your goals. While I would encourage you to try each of the Seven Rs to find out which ones work best for you, you don’t need to strictly adhere to all of them. Choose the ones that resonate most with you, customize them to fit your unique needs and circumstances, or even integrate additional strategies to bolster your success further.

 

 

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Have you tried implementing the 7 Rs? Which ones have worked best for you? Share your experiences and insights in the comments below. And to receive regular tips and insights in your inbox, sign up for my monthly newsletter!

 

 

Building Lasting Habits: The 7 Rs Framework from ACT

Photo by Yannic Läderach on Unsplash

 

 

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