Let`s answer the question: What is a habit? Even more let`s talk about what is the psychological process behind habits.
I will go over examples of habits and types of habits. We will cover how to form the good ones and how to drop the bad ones.
By the end of this article you will be inspired and you will know how to form a habit a scientific approach!
What is a habit? Simple definition
Some of the common simple explanations are as follow:
- A routine that you`re used to
- An activity that you do automatically
- Regular occurrence on a daily basis
- A task that makes you exude little to none effort
- Continues repetition which leads to almost mechanical response
What is a habit? Complex explanation
Let`s look at an physical example it`s a good way to visualize. Merry goes to the gym to lift weights, her body is weak in the beginning so she uses up most of her energy depots during workouts.
If she continues to do so frequently enough her muscles will strengthen and she will need less energy to complete a workout. Soon if she goes to the gym making the same exercises with the same weights her body won`t even recognize it as a workout session rather an automatic task.
So weights are the task, going to the gym is the habit we want to create; the continuous repetition will lead to a mechanical response. Muscles are the brain as they strengthen they will use less capacity in order to finish something. This is an efficiency mechanism of the brain and body which learns through continuous adaptation.
Furthermore an article by Psychology Discussion suggests that repeating a certain task multiple times starts to create a neural connection. Neural connections transmit information between cells in our body through electrical and chemical signals. As they strengthen you become internally wired to the task, soon it becomes what we call a habit.
What is a habit? Breaking down a habitNow we will go over creating new habits and some hardened principles about their formation. In order to start a habit you need some kind of a trigger at first in order to start it. The best examples are those things that happen almost every day and provoke you to do a certain task.
If you drink coffee the most appropriate time in general is in the morning right after you get up. Eating is truly connected more often to the generally accepted 3 meals per day and the time of eating.Breakfast, lunch and dinner time are triggers to eat.
Snacks can be timed as well, at the start of the movie, when you work long enough in the afternoon and so on.
The state you`re in is the most significant trigger. This activates a certain thought which leads to a certain action. You probably have heard or know yourself that feeling certain negative emotions can make you crave tasty food that your brain thinks will get you out of a negative state or e.g. try and keep your mind full with a game.
Feeling depleted, bored or just lazy can provoke all sorts of bad habits. We can feel tired by almost anything we label as work and that can make us take a brake by watching TV, playing a game, using substances for relaxation and so on.
Places you`re at are huge triggers to do something. The most common example is why we tend to go to a quiet place to study like the library, because our home is the biggest motivator of leisure.
Why people go to a work place? Because your brain gets accustomed to being productive there.If you work from home you probably know very well how distracting that can be at times. An addition to a work place is other people working there which is the next cue.
As the quote goes “Show me who your friends are, and I will tell you what you are.” I have been firmly against this saying while I was in high-school and university because I was protecting my friends.
However as the years went on I started accepting it and realizing how truthful it is. I have kept my best friends and I have left others even though I`m kind hearted and I have felt bad doing that.
Furthermore you have probably felt how some people subconsciously make you become more like them while they`re around you. You are prone to drinking around some or prone to be productive around others.
How to create new habits? You start with the triggers: states, people, places, time and thoughts. This makes you want to do something which usually leads to a response, an action. Last step is reward- you got satisfied from eating, you learned something new, you went to the gym, you got drunk etc.
Types of habits
There are different types of habits that are formed in everyday life. Most noteworthy we break them down to physical and mental habits that form similarly. They can be put at the bottom of the tree but their branches spread out to a lot of different subtypes of habits.
1. Physical – types of habits that are related to exercise, types of sport, hygiene (like brushing your teeth), eating habits and so on;
2. Mental – types of habits that are connected to a thinking pattern, how you interact, react and connect with others, your characteristics are based on habitual thinking, reasoning, logical thinking and much more.
Certainly these are the general types of habits that all of us have and they have been forming from the very beginning. These habits are strong neural connections that have lasted in time and have shaped our lives.
Your personal qualities are the best representation of habits that have been built from the ground up through repetition, so much that they`ve become what one might call inherited qualities, but they are more of habitual thinking.
Characteristics of habit
Let`s take another step and further divide these into more relevant types of habits. Hopefully you will be able to recognize them in your life.
- Unconscious habits – these are either good or bad but we don`t recognize them easily. Let`s say you pick your nose or bite your fingernails these are connected to a cue like a feeling of a full nose or discomfort and stress that is more often than not the reason to bite fingers.
When you do these you follow the cycle and usually feel a bit relieved after. So you can see the cycle here trigger, response, reward.
Driving a car is a good example which happens automatically especially when the location is well known. Often you won`t notice when you arrived at the destination or what happened along the way.
- Behavior habit – while we are raised we learn how to act in certain situations (willingly or unwillingly).
Let`s say from a child you were taught that it`s polite (the trigger is you want to be a polite person) to greet others that you meet, converse a bit and smile widely.
So you did it for a while (response) and soon it became a habit. Now people will describe you as warm and friendly (reward) because of that habit.
Examples of habits
The contrary to this example is you`re an uninviting, impolite, rarely smiling person which is the response. Usually, people like that are triggered early in childhood as well. This is most often associated with a disturbing childhood which starts from a parent’s behavior who drops it down to the child or negative experiences of the child.
Another trigger is the person’s everyday unsatisfied life, which leads to again to a constant negative response. Reward here is associated with people’s need for empathy, a person that struggles will desire others to know his pain and to feel similarly. Due to unexpressed feelings, one will try subconsciously to make others feel his demeaning life situation.
I don’t want to make the assumption that every characteristic we have is a habit but thought patterns really happen and they can sometimes be accredited as mental, behavioral habits. The reason I`m saying this is because it happens on a daily manner, repeatedly until it becomes a part of you, which become called traits.
Consequently, traits are habits that have formed in years of experiencing similar thought flows. The way you create your habit of reading a book every day for 30 minutes is closely related to the way you create these mental sequences. However, you don`t really see them because they`re formless and they`re much harder to spot. Your attitude towards others and towards life is difficult to spot, that’s why you`d better ask those around you for an objective opinion.
At the end work on habits that benefit you, those will be the ones that will get you satisfied and consequently improve your life quality and increase your capabilities.
Comment your opinion on the power of habits and how important are they! s