Most of us are creatures of habit but why, and how do we break bad habits?
Humans survive off habitual behaviour to create order in their lives and habit exists across time and society. Some serve us well and some don’t.
There are habits we have that are beneficial to our lives and ones that are negative and destructive and without which, our lives would be better.
A little bit of how the brain works with regard to habits……..
Humans, and some animals, are good at creating behaviour patterns in response to stimuli. These patterns can be the result of conscious thought (when we consider how we want to act) or can become fixed patterns which we react to in response to a trigger …these are known as habits.
When we decide on a course of action, we log whether the outcome of the actions was good or bad. If it was bad, we attempt to remember this so that we don’t repeat the experience ……this doesn’t always happen …. otherwise we would only ever experience one hangover!
However, if the outcome was good, we may repeat the actions again to try to achieve the ‘reward’ feeling again. If the reward is experienced again we note this and may choose to repeat.
A habit is a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behaviour that is acquired through frequent repetition. Brushing your teeth every morning and night is an example. With this repetition the brain gets so used to it that it stops assessing the reward – and there may no longer be one!
So how do we alter our habits and get rid of the ones that no longer serve us and develop ones that are better for us?
Firstly, it helps to examine the habit you no longer want and try to bring it in to your conscious thought …. this may take time and several attempts. In the brain, the original reward is linked to the actions but as you have decided there is no longer a reward from those actions you need to detach the two. You can then either create a new behaviour which will result in the original reward or create a new behaviour to achieve a new reward. This new behaviour must be repeated until it becomes the new habit. Success at breaking a habit is greater if the old habit is replaced with a new one.
This may sound pretty complicated …….but we are talking about the human brain!
Have you had success changing your habits? How did you do it? Please leave any comments or tips you may have J
If you are having difficulty changing your habits and would like to know more about how to change them or about Life Coaching, please get in touch