I read an interesting article on how to crack bad habits and wanted to share it with you.
We are, roughly the sum of our habits. Who we are and what we accomplish depends largely on a vast cluster of routines and behaviors that we carry out with no thought whatsoever. If we can learn to crack our bad habits, we’re more likely to be successful.
How habits get formed and how habit loops work
When we do something for the first time, our brains process a lot of new information as we find our way. As soon as we understand how a something new works, the behavior starts becoming automatic and need for mental activity decreases.
Writer Charles Duhigg says "This process—in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine—is known as "chunking," and it’s at the root of how habits form. There are dozens—if not hundreds—of behavioral chunks that we rely on every day."
All habits consist of a simple but extremely powerful three-step loop and if we can get in there and modify the loop, we can crack our bad habits.
- First there’s a cue, something that triggers your brain into automatic mode and which habit to use.
- Then there’s the routine/action, which can be physical, mental or emotional.
- Finally, there’s the reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.
Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic and the cue and reward become intertwined with a powerful sense of anticipation or craving.
Changing a bad habit
To successfully change a bad habit we have to make sure to consider the three-step process (cue, routine, reward) and not shut it off completely. The best way to get rid of a bad habit is to find a routine that gives you the same reward.
Example; Your cue is feeling stressed or frustrated after a long workday. Your routine is to get drinks with your co-workers. The reward is feeling more relaxed and happier.
The way to change this habit replacing the drinking with something healthier that gives you the exact same reward. An example could be to work out, go to the movies, cook dinner etc. Whatever gives you the same exact reward.
After doing this a few times, your brain will remember it and it will be an automated choice to work out instead of drinking.
This is of course a top level description of how to hack your bad habits but the core of it is there.
If you want to read more, check out The Power of Habit