Our whole life is a series of habits. We wake up in the morning, answer calls, eat, take a shower, change into home clothes, obeying a series of internal impulses. But habits are different: inconspicuous and palpable, requiring the connection of consciousness and working at an unconscious level, and finally, harmful and useful. It is logical that the more good habits we have, the higher the quality of our lives. But how to instill them in yourself?
We at Happy Worthy Life examined the works of psychologists and figured out what habits are from the point of view of science and how you can acquire some of them. To begin with, let’s understand what a habit is in general.
What is a habit?
The formation of any habit occurs in 4 stages:
- The emergence of the situation in which the habit manifests itself. For example, it may be associated with some place, time or problem.
- The appearance of traction is a subconsciously fixed way of behavior in this situation.
- The implementation of the process is the action itself.
- The reward is a pleasant result that we get at the end of the action.
Consider these steps with specific habits as an example.
Habit of brushing your teeth in the morning
- The circumstance in which it manifests: morning, immediately after waking up, when we experience discomfort in the mouth.
- Craving: desire to get rid of this feeling and get a feeling of freshness.
- Exercise: brushing your teeth.
- Reward: It smells good from the mouth, teeth are smooth and white, we like to feel it.
The habit of turning on the light in a dark room
- Circumstances: dark room.
- Craving: It’s normal to see in this room.
- Exercise: Turn on the light.
- Reward: the room becomes brighter, visibility improves.
The inclusion of light flies through all 4 stages in literally a second and does not require any awareness from us. As a result, even when a light bulb burns out in some room, we continue to automatically click the switch at the entrance.
Knowing how the habit is fixed, we can instill new ones. For this, it is important to first consciously go through these 4 stages, then we will do it subconsciously. Perhaps the first time will have to artificially promote the habit at some stage. But this is not for long.
For example, you forget to empty the mailbox all the time and want to become habit
- We have a circumstance in this case: like most people, we can check the mailbox when we return home.
- There is also a craving: to find out what lies in the mailbox. But it can not coincide with the circumstance. For example, we could recall the need to check the box when we were at the workplace, and when we returned home, we were so busy with other thoughts that we passed by.
- The action is quite predictable: open the box and get the mail.
- Reward: we satisfy curiosity by learning what was in the box.
It turns out that to create a habit we need to tighten 2 levers: circumstance and cravings so that they coincide in time. This can be done, for example, by rewinding the base of the key from the mailbox with a bright electrical tape. So we recall our desire to pick up the mail when we get home, open the door to the staircase and notice a bright key on a common link.
Over time, the need for this trick will disappear and we will begin to check the mailbox simply because we are used to doing this upon returning home.
Or you can’t force yourself to drink the norm of water per day, but you want to do it mechanically
- Circumstances: we have neither time, nor place, nor a tangible recurring problem in connection with which this habit could manifest itself.
- Craving: we have a desire to drink a daily rate of water.
- Action: you need to regularly drink a glass of water.
- Arward: the realization that we have met the norm. In the long run, improving well-being and appearance.
From all indications it is clear that we need only circumstances to acquire this habit. So you need to create it. Often this is done with the help of special timers to form a connection: the signal rang – we drank water. However, there is no certainty that the habit will persist without a timer, because the only fact is its bell.
It would be better for a start to leave bottles or mugs of water in different parts of the apartment and constantly take water with them when leaving the house. Then another, more thorough connection will develop: I saw water – I drank water.
How long does it take to form a new habit?
Of course, this process is lengthy, but doctors found that subconscious behavior begins to change 3 weeks after its conscious change.
That is how much time has passed since the moment when a person who has lost a limb ceases to feel phantom pains in it. It is after 3 weeks that patients of plastic surgeons get used to a new face. It is after 21 days that a new habit begins to take hold in the subconscious.
Therefore, if you started to run in the mornings, but are experiencing a decline in motivation and want to quit this venture, promise yourself to hold out for at least 21 days (when an unpleasant process has a foreseeable ending, it is easier to transfer it). After this time, you most likely will no longer be so desperate to sleep in the morning in bed instead of going for a run.
However, we do not say that the consolidation of a new habit will occur on the 22nd day at the click of a finger. It will become easier, but until the moment it starts to work automatically, it may take another week, or maybe whole months.
Bad habits form much faster
A few repetitions are enough for some bad habits. For example, on Monday you bought a donut at a kiosk near work. It was very tasty, so you took it on Tuesday. On Wednesday, approaching the office, you, without hesitation, stand in line at the kiosk, from which a pleasant aroma stretches for a couple of hundred meters. And voila, at the end of the month you notice a couple of extra centimeters at the waist and understand that you ate donuts every working morning.
Good habits take longer to form because most of them involve delayed rather than momentary rewards.
On average, it may take about 66 days to get used to jogging in the morning, eating vegetables at lunch, or flossing regularly.
Are there any habits that you would like to acquire? Let’s try to decompose their formation into 4 stages together. Maybe together we can find the missing links that prevent you from fixing the desired behavior.