Learn the secrets of forming good habits that will help boost your health and well-being.
In this article:
- What Are Habits in Psychology?
- Where Does a Habit Form?
- When Is the Best Time to Build Good Personal Habits?
- Why Does It Take Some Time for Healthy Habits to Form?
- How Do You Develop Good Habits?
5 Questions About Creating Good Habits and Nurturing Them
1. What Are Habits in Psychology?
To fully understand what good habits are and their benefits, let’s define habits first. What are habits in the context of psychology?
Habits are repeated behaviors or rituals a person does automatically. That’s what makes them different from behaviors.
Behaviors can still be repeated actions or routines, but they demand more focus, intention, and awareness. For example, when you’re angry, you may find yourself yelling at someone.
When this becomes the norm every time you experience anger, it becomes a habit.
The purpose of habits is to give the brain or the mind bigger resources for more complex tasks. These can include problem-solving, creativity, and analytics.
2. Where Does a Habit Form?
At least two parts of the brain work when you’re trying to form a habit. One of these is the basal ganglia, which regulates memory, emotion, and recognition of patterns.
The other is the prefrontal cortex. It manages decision-making, personality expression, and regulation of social behavior.
Both of these can be active when you’re trying to create a new routine. As soon as the brain understands you’re developing habits, the basal ganglia takes over and the prefrontal cortex can become dormant or “shut down.”
3. When Is the Best Time to Build Good Personal Habits?
Habits can begin in childhood. In fact, babies and toddlers have them.
When they are hungry or teething, they tend to suck their thumbs and even their toes. Some of them also have the habit of throwing objects at you when they’re angry or in need of your attention.
Parents also teach good daily habits to their children as soon as they can understand commands. Online, you’ll find dozens of materials listing the kinds of chores they can form according to age.
A 2014 study suggested that it takes until they’re nine years old before these good habits take root. In other words, they are more consistent with them.
In general, it may take a person about 18 to 254 days to create good habits or change bad ones. This is according to a 2009 study in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
Keep in mind that the study only had very few participants and that every person can have their own pace.
4. Why Does It Take Some Time for Healthy Habits to Form?
To know the answer is to understand how people develop good health habits or not. It turns out that habits undergo three processes called the habit loop:
- Trigger or cue
- Response or routine
First, you need to have a trigger or cue, which will stimulate you to initiate a behavior or a habit. It can be as simple as seeing the numbers you don’t like when you step on your weighing scale.
A cue or trigger is useless unless you form a craving. Here, other factors such as emotions come into play.
After stepping on the scale and knowing you gained significant weight, you may feel a wide range of emotions. You may start feeling angry about it and then determined to act on it.
The second process is routine or response. This is where your habit comes in, which, in this case, can mean exercising or eating a healthy diet.
Lastly, there’s the reward, which is the ultimate end goal of the habit. If exercising and eating healthy become good habits for you, then you may experience a better quality of life.
5. How Do You Develop Good Habits?
Whether you’re trying to build good sleeping habits or good eating habits, these tips can help:
1. Take a Vacation
If you want to create good habits, it’s because you want to get rid of the bad ones, such as smoking or eating junk food.
If you want to break your bad habits, you can take a vacation. This is the point of Charles Duhigg in his book “The Power of Habit.”
According to him, for habits to form, you need to expose yourself to familiar cues or triggers, as well as rewards. What traveling or a vacation can do is to change these triggers and rewards because you’re removing the familiarity.
2. Start in the Morning
To start ticking off your good habits list, start making changes in the morning. There are two reasons for this.
One, your willpower is at its highest at the beginning of the day. You feel fresh, your mind is clear, and your focus is more intense.
Otherwise, the activities of the day, especially work, can drain you. You can take Rising Energy to keep you active all day, but sometimes your willpower or level of commitment can decline as the hours pass.
Second, you are more likely to keep up with the other good habits once you start with one in the morning. Once you make your bed, you may take your time preparing a healthy breakfast at home and avoid grabbing a bagel along the way.
3. Pick Good Habits to Have
It’s normal to try to change old or bad habits simultaneously, but you’re less likely to succeed. Keep in mind that forming habits at first takes some effort, especially for your brain.
To allow these to stick, pick good habits to start. Make a list and then choose which ones will create the biggest impact on your health goals.
Take, for example, your desire to wake up feeling less exhausted. You may need to develop good sleep habits.
There are many routines you can follow, but you can further streamline that. For instance, within the next few weeks, you may want to sleep at least 30 minutes to an hour earlier than you’re used to.
4. Be Consistent Early in the Process
By now, you know that to form good habits, you need to be consistent. Your level of consistency should be at its highest in the early days.
Remember, the first few days or weeks will be the most difficult. These will be the times when you’re trying to deviate from old or bad habits.
As they say, these die hard. Consistency during this time assures you that if you can succeed now, you can press on later.
Over time, the resistance to change gradually subsides until your routines or behaviors become more automatic for you.
You don’t build good habits overnight, and some of them will fall through. You may, therefore, feel frustrated or disappointed.
The good thing is that the habit loop is a never-ending cycle as long as you’re alive. You will always have the chance to start again.
How did you overcome your bad habits and replace them with good ones? Share your tips in the comments section below.