Many people have difficulty in keeping track of their own habits. For example, some of us have promised to eat healthy meals and find ourselves cheating on the diet just after a week (or a couple of days), and return to the usual menu filled with lots of unhealthy calories. Our exercise plans seem to follow the same course.
In this article, we will discuss the science of habits and the essential things to consider in order to successfully incorporate healthy habits into our lifestyle.
The Science and Psychology of Habits
One thing you need to understand about habits is that the decision-making part of our brain has very little to do with it. It should not be difficult to perform because it is an action that we don’t even think about as we are doing it because we have done it so many times that it becomes automatic and natural.
Almost 50% of our daily actions such as waking up from the bed, brushing our teeth, drinking water before eating, getting dressed, and many more are estimated as habits.
When you take on a habit, your brain doesn’t need to go into an intricate step-by-step process. Thus, you don’t need to consider all the options and make decisions about every mundane action.
But how is a basic habit formed?
According to the book, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, creating a basic habit is similar to a rat-in-a-maze illustration. When a rat is placed at the start of a maze with a chocolate at the end, it smells the food and then figures out the right path to get it. When it is placed on the maze again and again, it gets to the chocolate faster and faster. So, the rat now has a chocolate habit.
Humans have developed far more complex habit loops that involve a huge amount of steps. As the habit loop is successfully repeated over and over, it eventually becomes an established, and then automatic, process. The same development happens in forming bad habits. That’s because our negative emotions and unhealthy coping behaviours can directly interfere with our ability to erase bad habits and make better habits.
Tips and Ways to Create Meaningful and Healthy Habits
Because of various living circumstances, we are greatly affected with different problems and challenges. Many people tend to think that maintaining good health is hard for them especially during stressful and depressing times. But consider to think in reverse: it is harder to feel stressful when you’re healthy.
To help you face and overcome life’s challenges and trials, you need to manage a basic self-care routine such as good nutrition, exercise, and sleep – basically a strong foundation of self-support system.
In the section below, we provide you a solution to change from your bad habits into incorporating wonderful habits into your lifestyle based on the references by Monique Tello’s book “Healthy Habits For Your Heart”:
- 1. Replace the Reward – Think about replacing unhealthy things into some healthy alternatives. If you love eating ice cream every dinner, try going for an antioxidant-rich berries that can be made into smoothies, homemade yogurts, or ice cream to satisfy your sweet cravings.
- 2. Rethink the Reward – Think about and analyze a bad habit that really concerns you. Examine if there exists any benefit to that matter. Try listing that hinders you to change it and take the initiative to reverse the action.
- 3. Make Reasonable Rules – By making rules for ourselves, we can help activate the automatic button of our brains. Establish simple, straightforward, and realistic rules that you can easily follow. Take baby steps to achieve your goals.
- 4. Change your mindset – Change your perspective regarding your habit. Visualize – what do you want to happen or become? This way, you can begin diverting yourself from the habit that you want to eradicate.
- 5. Make a Bet that You Don’t Want to Lose – According to some behavioral scientists, people tend to make a change only if they have something to lose rather than something to gain. Be motivated to do things because you don’t want to lose or miss out because of poor health. If you eat processed foods, you will compromise your health. Focus and visualize your goals and rewards in order to succeed in forming a good habit.
- 6. Commitment Contract – Write in your journal, or make some form of a commitment contract to establish your goals. Contemplating hard and being articulate about what you would like to accomplish will help with your motivation. Make a main goal and then break it down into smaller specific goals and divide them again into simple actions. Manage a worthwhile plan to commit and fulfill your dream plan.
- 7. Incorporate a new habit into an existing one – Perform a new habit that can complement your existing habit. For example, if you want to develop a habit of cleaning the dishes or the floor, try listening to some uplifting and mood-boosting podcasts or your favorite playlist so that you can enjoy the new habit. This way, you can maintain your motivation by establishing your new habits with something positive. And if you are finding it hard to break a certain habit, then kill it with as many rewards as necessary.
Humans are capable of many things. However, our endurance can only go so far, and we are vulnerable in so many ways that we can’t help but experience failure. The point of it all is to stay on course. Good habits keep you tough – and whether you are aiming for better health, financial opportunities, quality time for yourself and family, etc., Instead of getting wrecked over setbacks, the regularity of habits will keep you grounded.
It may be challenging to develop good habits but keep in mind that doing this will help you improve the quality of your lifestyle. So think, feel, and explore your senses. What makes you feel good? Make your “feel good” list very long so that your challenges are no match for your positive ammunition.