12 Mar 2024

Habits. Why are they so hard to break?

Notoriously, habits are hard to break. However, understanding how a habit works has been proven to be the most effective way of breaking a habit.

Habit – behaviors performed regularly and cued subconsciously in response to environments.

A habit has three steps: Cue, Behavior, and Reward. It becomes a loop.
Habits are formed when the brain realizes that a task you continuously do is beneficial. You might twirl your hair when taking a test. The hair twirling distracts you a bit from the stressful test calming you down. When positive reactions happen, your brain releases dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical in our brains and also increases neuroplasticity. Your brain remembers what you did, and the reaction becomes second nature. As mentioned, your brain also takes note of its environment and the cues around it. Eventually, sitting in class may be associated with twirling your hair.

Now here’s how to break them!

1. Identify the environments that cue your bad habits. If you know you go on your phone too much in bed. Leave the phone outside of your room before going to bed.

2. Times of change are also great times to begin building new habits. For example, buying a new home or switching jobs are new beginnings.

3. Habit reversal training is effective when ridding habits like hair twirling or nail biting. Essentially, you change a habit by replacing it with another one. If you twirl your hair when taking a test, bring a stress ball. During the test, when you feel anxious, squeeze the ball. Over time it will become a new habit.

While it’s good to break bad habits, it’s important to recognize that Habits can be good and are the reason why we work on autopilot so much!

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