The majority of our daily actions are habits, which are automatic routines performed without even thinking about it. In fact, research suggests that up to 40% of our daily actions are habits – automatic routines that we do without thinking. However, these habits are difficult to get rid of, so how are they formed and why are they so persistent?
It is important to define not only your goals, but also when, where and how you will achieve them.
When we form a habit, the decision-making parts of our brainAlso known as the prefrontal cortex, are activated during the early stages, and we take an action in a very conscious way. After a new routine is initiated, brain circuits, called neural networks, are activated. The connections between these neurons are strengthened and reorganized, a capacity called neuroplasticity, which promotes long-term potentiation.
Over time, habits are reinforced when we associate certain actions with positive rewards. For example, not napping makes it easier to arrive at work on time, which encourages the formation of a new habit. To maintain new habits or break old ones, it is essential to set specific goals and set specific times to achieve them.
How do you start a healthy morning routine and stick with it?
A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology is often cited as showing that habits take between 18 and 254 days to form, with an average of about 66 days.
In this study, 96 participants were asked to choose a new health-related habit and practice it daily for 84 days. At the end of the study period, approximately 41% of participants were successful in developing their habit. The results showed that the success of habit formation and its duration depended on the type of goal chosen.
Breaking bad habits: routines trump willpower
A popular approach to breaking a bad habit is to identify the specific signal or trigger that initiates the behavior and the reward that reinforces the habit.
Goals related to drinking a glass of water daily were easier to achieve and maintain without conscious effort than goals related to fruit consumption or exercise.
Also, the time of day the habit is formed is important, as habits formed early in the day became automatic more quickly than those formed later in the day. Thus, it is easier to break bad habits by adopting routines rather than relying on willpower.
How do you break bad habits?
When it comes to breaking an undesirable habit in the brain, a different form of neuroplasticity is required than that which strengthens neuronal connections. This form is called long-term depression and involves the weakening of neuronal connections.
To break a habit, it is common to look for the specific signal or trigger that initiates the behavior, as well as the reward that reinforces the habit. For example, if a person bites his or her nails when stressed, the reward might be a temporary distraction or sensory stimulation.
Once this connection is identified, it can be disrupted. For example, the person may use bitter nail polish and focus on deep breathing exercises when feeling stressed. Over time, the old nail-biting behavior may gradually fade.
Tips for creating or breaking a habit
To quit an unwanted habit:
- Identify your triggers, then avoid or change them.
- Find a substitute: try to replace the old habit with a new, healthier one.
- Practice self-compassion: setbacks are a natural part of the process. Re-commit to your goal and keep going.
To create a new habit:
- Start small: Begin with a simple, doable habit that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.
- Be consistent: repeat the habit until it becomes automatic.
- Reward yourself along the way to stay motivated.
When you are looking to develop a new habit, it is important to give it meaning. From studies have shown that believing in your ability to change is also essential for success. Having confidence in your potential and being aware of the benefits of change, as well as your commitment to practice, are essential elements for success.
In other words, when you have a meaningful reason to change your behavior and believe in your ability to do so, you are more likely to succeed. The key is to stay committed and practice regularly until the new habit becomes second nature.
- It is important to define not only your goals, but also when, where and how you will achieve them.
- How do you start a healthy morning routine and stick with it?
- Breaking bad habits: routines trump willpower
- How do you break bad habits?
- Tips for creating or breaking a habit
- To quit an unwanted habit:
- To create a new habit: