Hello readers, Today I am going to talk about bad habits and how to break bad habits. We all have bad habits. Whether it’s biting your fingernails, sleeping late at night, smoking, drinking too much coffee or alcohol. We all like to stop bad habit but why are habits so hard to break.
Perhaps you think your day is made up of deliberate conscious decisions but in reality. A University of Duke study founds that 45% of your everyday behavior are actions that you repeated every day and tend to do in the same location. These are your habits.
Let first understand How bad habits formed?
What is a Bad Habit and How is it formed?
He also mentions that once a habit becomes truly ingrained and deeply rooted you’ve gone through it several times, a fourth component also comes into the equation and that’s craving. When the cue is triggered in your mind there is a strong craving for that reward.In Book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg defines a habit in general as an ingrained or deeply rooted pattern of behavior that has three steps. The cue, when something triggers in your mind. The routine, the pattern of behavior, the actions that you take to get the reward, the final part.
It’s important to understand that every habit has a reward. Otherwise, you wouldn’t do it. So, essentially a bad habit is any habits that stand in opposition to your long-term goals, be it living a healthy life, or maintaining good relationships, or earning the money you desired.
The reason that these bad habits stick around for so long is that they are deeply entrenched in your mind. But almost always they are habits that lead to short term rewards and your brain is hard-wired to care a lot more about the short term than your long term goals even though logically you know those long term goals are more important.
So, essentially you’re acting against your self-interests. In fact, there’s a term that originates in ancient Greece for this called Akaraisia. If you want to beat that short term focused programming deep inside in your brain you need to have a clear, well-defined and convincing reason for breaking that bad habit.
You can get the book mentioned in this article The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg here:
Why is it hard to break bad habits?
Habits are attributed to one of the most primitive structures in your brain. The Basal Ganglia, the same region that helps to control processes such as breathing and swallowing.
In an MIT experiment, they put one mouse behind a gate of a T-shaped maze where to its left is a piece of chocolate. When the door clicks, the mouse goes into the maze sniffing and scratching up the walls. First, it explores the right and then to the left, eventually finding the chocolate.
A scan of the mouse’s basal ganglia shows it’s working furiously throughout the whole process. However, after a week of training, the mouse runs immediately towards the left of the maze once the gate clicks. At this point, there is very little brain activity once the gate clicks and the brain doesn’t fire back up again until it reaches the chocolate.
Mouse’s brain became automatic because now it knows where the chocolate is placed. So the repeated action of finding the chocolate in the maze becomes the habit.
Our brain seeks to minimize effort and space and this kind of automatic brain behavior is referred to as Chunking. Chunking aims to create a New Habit Pattern in cells of the brain. It’s like a task you do every day that you no longer have to think about. Brushing your teeth or driving a car, skills that were once difficult to master but now that becomes automatic.
This is a 3 step loop process
- 1st Step is the cue which for the mouse is the click of the gate.
- 2nd Step is the routine run through the maze
- 3rd Step is the reward, chocolate.
The cue and reward eventually intertwine creating anticipation and cravings. Craving is another central part of habits because we go into an automatic mode during routines our brains stop fully participating in decision-making. Our habits will automatically take place every time there is a cue. It doesn’t even see whether the reward is good or bad.
A study of habitual popcorn eaters at the movies found that they were minimally impacted by hunger or how much they liked the popcorn. They ate the same amount of popcorn regardless of whether it was stale or fresh. Our habits often overrule what we know is good for us.
So, How to break bad habits?
Charles Duhigg in his book gives an example of buying a cookie every day around 3.15 pm at work. The Cue is 3 o’clock but the reward is a bit more complicated. Because a cookie can be of many rewards it could be a relief from hunger or an energy boost to quench your craving for something sweet or it could be a nice break from work or even an opportunity to meet and talk to people.A study of America’s Take 5 campaign to encourage citizens to eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day. Found the program was effective in educating the public but an assessment found that it did not change American Intake where only 11% met the goal. It changed people’s intentions but not their habits. So what are you to do?
Duhigg wanted to break his cookie habit. After some trial and error, he discovered that what craved was socialization or gossip with people that came from buying the cookie. So around 3 he would get up and find someone to gossip with for 10 minutes instead of using the same Cue
But what about the habits that you don’t always notice like picking your nose or biting your nails Psychologists suggest that first, you think about When you bite your nails.
Are you nervous? Frustrated or bored?
In the case of boredom, Nail biting offers, Physical stimulation. So, next, to mark down every time in your day you feel bored and have the compulsion to bite your nails. Maybe that’s 5 times a day or maybe it’s 28. But then you want to implement a competing response, whenever you feel the desire to bite, you immediately put your hands in your pockets or cut them short.
Next, find a substitute that provides a quick physical stimulation like rubbing your palms or tapping your knuckles on the desk. This allows for one habit to be replaced by another with a similar Reward but also uses the same cue.
So when you are ready to take on a bad habit, just remember to figure out what your body is actually craving. Then use the same cue and reward that serves the correct purpose and be patient to build that new habit.
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