torstai 26. tammikuuta 2023

Habits and creating new ones

On average, about forty percent of the things you do are habits. It is impossible to determine the exact number to any individual because it would require a constant monitoring of brain activity. Most of the habits you just perform. Some of them are helpful and some harmful. Their sum can be anything. My personal experience is that changing even one bad habit can have a big positive impact. Why modification and not elimination? For the simple reason that habits are almost impossible to remove, as we will see later. Different habits have similarities and being aware of them can be beneficial. Noticing the similarities will improve chances of changing the worst habits and developing new ones.

The definition of a habit is roughly: it means a choice made in the past that you continue to make without thinking about it. Habits are formed by tasks that take place in your brain. Your brain is constantly conserving energy. The longer you perform tasks, the less the brain needs to consume. Habits can be called processes where the brain turns a series of tasks into routines. There are hundreds of task sets every day. Habits are either simple or complex. They form because your brain is constantly working to conserve energy. They reduce wasted energy and make it easier to focus on more difficult things. This means that habits don't go away, they are in our brains to stay. They can be changed by reprogramming brains. They need to be understood in order to change them.

During habits, there are two clear spikes in energy consumption in the brain. They are spotting a clue and getting a reward. Routines consume less energy the more often and longer you perform them. Clues can be anything, such as a certain time or a place. Also, visual clues such as candy shelves can trigger routines. Routines can be simple actions like nail biting or complex like analyzing investments. Their duration can be anything from milliseconds to many hours or even days. Rewards range from feel-good feelings such as pride to physical changes or hormone production. The size of the reward produces a constant desire and need to do the routine. The main reason for forming a habit is the reward. Understanding the anatomy of habits makes it possible to create new habits and change old ones.

Creating new habits

There are three parts to creating new habits:

  1. Coming up with a clear clue

  2. Defining a routine

  3. Definition of an award

All parts above are required to create a habit. The more complicated the routine is, the more precisely it must be defined, including clues and rewards. If you want to learn how to perform a new habit in the morning, you should bring the instrument with which you want to perform the habit visible on your bedside table or another place as a clue. You can bring a toothbrush if you want to learn to brush your teeth in the morning as well. If you want to start going for a morning run, bring your sneakers to bedroom door or some other visible place where you can see them when you rise up from the bed before going to sleep. The reward can be any thing that makes you feel good. It can be the good feeling you get from sports or the old great jeans that don't fit you anymore. The main thing is that the award makes you feel good. A big enough reward is the only chance to create a new habit successfully. The cue must create a desire for the reward that you get from the routine, i.e. it must be related to the routine and the reward in one way or another.

Creating new habits is much easier than changing the current ones. Next text is about the latter.


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