If you understand the science and psychology behind habits, you can learn how to break bad habits and how to create good ones.
Habit is at the heart of our successes and our failures.
For example, for many years, like some of you, I unsuccessfully made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Last year, I decided not to wait until the end of the year and instead, looked at my exercise and eating habits. I worked hard to reprogram my brain to love exercise and to focus on post-exercise rewards. This is not easy to do, but if you take small steps, anyone can do it.
Rewiring your brain and creating good habits pushes you to do things that you otherwise might ignore. For example, in the past, I came up with many excuses why I should skip exercising on a given day. But once I developed a habit of exercising nearly every day (I now exercise 6 days per week), I no longer permit myself to come up with excuses. Having lost nearly fifty pounds during the last year, I now ride my bike 175 miles every week and am in the best shape of my life.
If you have difficulty correlating habits and rewards, find other ways to push yourself to create good habits. For example, when I started my exercise program last year, I wanted to be sure that in addition to my normal exercise, I performed 150 stomach crunches every day. I knew that I could not rely on serendipity, so I created a forced habit: I had to do crunches on the bathroom rug before I took a shower in the morning and I could not take a shower until I did 150 stomach crunches (nor could I leave without showering). This routine forced me, for many weeks, to do crunches even when I wasn’t in the mood. And yes, there were a few days when I was on the rug for an hour mad at myself but nonetheless, not moving until I finished. After several months, I created a habit and now I never question whether I should or should not do the crunches – I do 150 every single morning.
New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business takes a close look at neuroscience and behavioral psychology. He examines why habits exist, and how you can reprogram yourself and teach yourself good habits. The video is short – just over 3 minutes – and well worth the time to watch.
Do you have any tips on how people can create good habits and get rid of bad ones?