Making Habits, Breaking Habits
All of us love to believe that we have control over our own lives but the fact is that it is ruled by our habits. Now, not all habits have to be bad. Some of them can just be your personal quirks that may be endearing or just a part of your morning routine. But others may be damaging to a healthy and happy life. It could be something like smoking or a lifestyle with minimal exercise or more significantly a habit of negative thoughts.
- The first feature of habit consists of automaticity, which refers to not being aware of the performance of the action. Repeating an action reduces enthusiasm as it becomes monotonous. Even if it is as exciting as seeing a magnificent mountain range from your window every day, the novelty wears off after a point of time.
- Context can also play a part in habit formation due to the connections your mind may find between your surroundings and your behavior. For example, if your early memories of a good time with friends include alcohol then your mind expects a beer every time you go out with the same people.
- Intentions create habits. You have a specific goal and you devise habits that help you achieve them. Take for example the desire to have whiter teeth. You will brush your teeth, floss and visit the dentist regularly to attain this objective, making it a habit.
- Another way is by creating reasons that explain past random behavior. Maybe you go over to a friend’s place for the first time and sit in a particular spot and every time you visit, you sit only in that spot. You justify it by saying the chair is comfy or the air is just right.
- You can also have the best of both worlds and combine both of the above! For instance, maybe you started biking to be healthier but you continue doing it because you like the fresh air.
Our life is a series of conscious and unconscious habits. They can be work-related, social, or dietary habits. If you’ve ever caught yourself checking the mail multiple times a day then you have experienced what psychologists have termed as ‘partial-reinforcement extinction effect’ where you reiterate an action despite knowing that it yields no rewards merely because you’re used to it. Even after receiving an interesting piece of mail we automatically keep refreshing the app because we are habituated to it.
Another form of habit is rumination –where you mull over something over and over again. Some people might suggest that this kind of retrospection can help us but it does so only if you want to review past bad experiences and not to dwell in misery and self-loathing.
Good news! You cannot control your habits much but you can manipulate them. Simply use the WOOP method to overthrow obstacles:
- Write down your wish alongside the best imaginable outcome.
- Next, write down the possible obstacles you might face.
- The final step is to plan the right intention and act to execute it. Start thinking of ‘if x, then y’ situations using positive statements like, ‘if I enter a building, I’ll take the stairs.’
- Don’t forget to repeat actions as it leads to automation which helps in habit development.
- You can also try coping planning wherein you foresee obstacles or challenges for your new habit and plan accordingly.
- Lastly, MAKE HABITS HAPPY! One way to reduce monotony is to not do things for the sake of doing them. ‘Habituation’ is the enemy of happy habits so don’t fall into its trap.
Don’t be afraid to switch it up sometimes. Just because something has become a habit doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it. If you ride your bike every day don’t stick to the same paths and try discovering new places.
As soon as the New Year rolls around, we are armed with resolutions that are almost always hard to keep. It could be to quit smoking or to lose weight. But it takes a lot of effort on our part.
First and foremost, identify the habits that are bad for you. The results of such habits are much easier to spot than the habits themselves.
A method called Mindfulness, which is the awareness of your actions at any given point. Unwind on your favorite chair or wherever you feel relaxed and take deep breaths. Focus on these breaths and take a moment to introspect. Remember to be kind to yourself and compassionate about your feelings.
Self-control is a great practice to incorporate into your lifestyle. It is similar to a muscle that requires training. We sometimes overestimate our limits and hurt ourselves in the process. Be patient with yourself.
Some other ways to instill self-control in our daily lives include:
- Monitoring behavior– for example, maintaining a dairy to regulate food intake.
- Distraction– chewing gum instead of smoking a cigarette
- Shifting environments– moving into a non-smoking apartment
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