Friday, June 24, 2016

Changing and Forming Habits

Make Habits Work For You

“Old habits die hard.”


New habits take time and effort to create.

Habits do not actually die, but can be replaced and superseded by new habits. This was well illustrated by a friend recently when she told the story of her father quitting smoking cigarettes and twenty years later, while in a bar having a drink, he automatically reached for a cigarette in the nearby ashtray. Habits will become rusty with disuse though. But just as in riding a bicycle, it doesn’t take long to get back in the swing of an old habit. I guess this means, be careful of the habits you create.

Habits can be used to give your power away, but habits can also be used to take back your power. Some may have habits that are clearly in need of change, such as those who smoke cigarettes but desire to quit. However, we can also create habits to improve our lives, such as rising at a certain time of the day every day.

What is a habit?
usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way

a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

A habit is formed on three main levels: mental, physical, and the unconscious. Repetition is key for all three.

The Mental Level of Habits
We think about what we want to do. We set goals and determine what we want to accomplish. We are taught movements and go about the tasks at hand to the best of our abilities.  When the task is repeated often, we create a habitual way of performing the activity or even a habitual way of thinking.

The Physical Level of Habits
Through thought, we create neurological pathways to initiate and reinforce the movements needed to perform the tasks that lead to the results and rewards that can lead to the creation of a habit. This entails using muscles and when a movement is repeated enough times, it is registered in the subconscious and becomes a habit.

The Unconscious Level of Habits
The knowledge gained from carrying out an activity is stored in our memory and the memory of each cell involved in the action. This results in creating a neurological pathway. The more a movement is repeated, the deeper engrained the pathway becomes just like walking on a path in a garden, field or woods. In addition, many habits are formed passively. In other words, we often do not consciously plan to create a habit, but do it naturally because habits make life easier.

How to Change a Habit
It takes conscious redirecting of the movements and will power to break down the patterns created by the habit. By relaxing with various methods, one can facilitate this muscle memory reprogramming. Just as plants will grow over a disused path, so to, the neurological pathway will become overgrown.

There is a two-prong approach here:

1. Undoing the muscle memory pathways for the motor neurons which have become ingrained and unconscious, such as with the act of lighting a cigarette in the habit of smoking cigarettes; and

2. Consciously creating a new habit to replace the old one by building up pathways for it.

It is helpful to note here that addictions are a good way to develop bad habits and make a habit even harder to break free from. For example, quitting smoking is not just breaking a habit, it is also breaking an addiction. The addiction is primarily a physical reliance on a substance that the body comes to crave. This is why quitting smoking cigarettes is so hard for many people. An addiction may need to be addressed before a habit can be changed.

I would also like to point out that we pick up many behaviors and habits subconsciously by watching people in person and on electronic screens such as TVs and computers as well as other media. We can be easily influenced and that is the core of advertising.

Process of Change
Start out with the mental level. Become aware of the habit and focus on it. Think about what triggers the habitual behavior. Are there any specific and obvious cues? Evaluate the habit from as many angles as possible. Write up a paragraph or two about the habit. Maybe keep a diary for a while on the habit to gain more conscious knowledge about it.

Consider what purpose the habit fulfills. Does it lead to a reward or desired outcome? Can you visualize a way to obtain that reward or desired outcome without the undesirable habit? What habit could you create to replace it?

Create a New Habit
Creating a new habit involves reprogramming your brain. To do this takes conscious thought and reflection. That’s the hard part. Affirmations can be helpful in changing thought patterns. The new thought patterns will create new neurological pathways. It will be tedious and seemingly unsuccessful at the start, but with repetition, will become easier as time goes by. Start out with small steps but use your mind in a big way.

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How to Change a Habit for Good, How mindfulness and a rewarding routine can help us develop good habits that last. by Carley Hauck, ,

Making the Path By Walking by Penny Walker,

The Eyes Have It - How to Care for Eyes Naturally by Jennifer Wilson, Tuesday, 22 December 2015,

The Habit Change Cheat Sheet: 29 Ways to Successfully Ingrain a Behavior by Leo Babauta,
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg,