Updated: Oct 4
Harnessing Habits for Transformation From the moment we wake up, habits shape our daily existence impacting the way we approach our work, relationships, and health. Habits allow us to accomplish tasks with minimal mental energy. Since our brains strive to conserve energy, habits form without our conscious awareness regardless of their benefit. If it conserves mental energy, our brain will form a habit. Understanding the power of habit can be a game-changer on your journey to personal growth and success.
The Science Behind Habits Neuroscience reveals that habits are deeply ingrained patterns of behavior formed when groups of neurons fire together through a loop of cue, routine, and reward. Recognizing this loop empowers us to intentionally choose the habits we form and change unhelpful ones. When stress hits (cue), replace an unhealthy snack (routine) with a piece of fruit (reward) and you're on your way to rewiring your habits.
Creating Positive Habits
1. Start Small: Begin with super easy changes. Connect the desired habit with an existing habit in a process called habit stacking. Want to exercise more? After brushing your teeth, do two knee bends. Your brain will celebrate achieving the goal and will want to do more. 2. Consistency is Key: Studies show it takes 66 days for a new habit to take hold. It’s important to stick to your new routine, especially when motivation wanes. To stay motivated, record your achievement on a paper calendar that you see every day. Your brain, seeing progress, will stay motivated. 3. Accountability: Share your goals with a friend or use habit-tracking apps to stay accountable.
Breaking Negative Habits
1. Identify Triggers: Recognize the cues that lead to your unwanted habits before the cue happens. Reflect on a healthy behavior (reward) you can substitute and have it readily accessible. 2. Replace, Don't Remove: Instead of eliminating an undesirable habit, replace it with a desired one. When stressed, swap smoking with a walk. Eat carrot sticks during the game rather than chips. Remember, our brains seek to conserve energy. Make unwanted habits harder and desired habits easier. If eating a bowl of ice cream in front of a screen at night has become a habit, don’t buy the ice cream in the first place. Consider lower calorie, healthier food options and have them prepared ahead of time. Want more exercise? Place your tennis shoes and workout clothes on your nightstand so you see them first thing when waking. 3. Patience: Habits take time to change and create. Be patient with yourself and learn from relapses. Celebrate all progress regardless the size!
Harnessing the Power of Habits Creating and modifying habits is hard but not impossible. Our brains will adapt. Remember, our brains love clarity. Rather than general goals like ‘losing weight’ or ‘reading more’ be specific. Set reasonable goals – sure wins – to keep your brain motivated and engaged. Habit stack to jump start your new habit.
Small changes made today will lead to remarkable transformations tomorrow.