How to Identify habits and have them in your favor
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.” - Aristotle
Whenever I want to get healthy I start eating better foods, exercise and also cut down all the fat based and sugar-based goods. I would keep a tab on it but somewhere I miss out the routine and everything goes for a toss. These were times I would start feeling guilty about wanting to do something, have the ability to do but somehow I feel like some old habits are getting triggered and totally going back to an old routine. It wasn't an easy feeling. It happened a few times with me but as the time moved I started getting better at building routines and forming habits. I wondered if I can understand anything about habits so I can look and work on them efficiently.
40% of our daily routine happens through habits without thinking.
Checking your phone after you get up, checking your Instagram when you get bored, brushing, driving, etc, happens through your habits. These things start happening from your subconscious mind without thinking. All the habits get registered in your basal ganglia which are at the root of your brain, the top layers are responsible for making conscious and complex decisions. If your top layers of brain gets damaged in an accident but if your basal ganglia isn't affected, you would still be able to do your daily routines which you have built over years.
It takes time to form habits. Remember the 1st time when you are learning how to ride a cycle? First few days would almost go off the balance, after that you would have learned how to balance it and as the time goes you would just take off riding your cycle without thinking.
Imagine you are walking in a forest almost every day, after few days you will see that you slightly made a pattern and after few months you might have made a neat road(like in the below image) This is exactly how it goes in your mind too. While you practice a habit, your neural parts of your brain to body gets better accustomed to that activity. We sometimes call it muscle memory.
We can get better a forming, changing and creating new habits once we realize the framework of our habits. Habit forming happens when there is a Cue -> a routine -> and a reward
You get a cue for triggering a behavior, you do a routine after the trigger which is action, once the action gets completed you get the reward.
For example, in your office routine, 430pm can be your cue for going to the cafe with your colleagues, snacks and talking with your colleagues will be your routine to get a reward which is relaxation/chilling out.
This also applies to usage of apps. For example, for checking Instagram or Facebook, boredom can be your cue, your routine is browsing through the timeline and you could be hunting and discovering new content. For making habit-forming products, we have a The Hooked Framework which is almost similar to our habit-forming framework. I would leave it for you to explore it for now.
Good habits like exercise can help you in long term. While bad habits like overeating could really harm you in long term.
So how do we overcome these issues?
Having a belief and wanting for change
Identify your Cue
Experiment with changing your Routine
See if you are getting the same reward that you are looking for with changed routine
For example, your wanting to change could be eating less or healthy in snacks time. Check your cue(eg: time-> 4:30 pm), observe your routine (going to cafeteria to have snacks with colleagues and having chat with them). Experiment with different routines such as food , relaxation(taking a walk around) , social interaction(talking to colleagues). After few changes and experiments you would know which works best for you and you will be able to stick to your new routine since you are almost keeping the same reward.
I believe you could turn off the cues sometimes. For examples, disabling the phone notification so you don't get the trigger to check the phone. If you have a habit of checking phone in middle of night, put the phone away in distance for which you have to walk to check the phone, you probably would go into having better sleep (I tried this and its working pretty well for me).
Keep a tab on your habits, check for good ones and bad ones, work on bad ones with same rewards and cues but different routine, may be turn of your cues too . I wish your HHH => Happy Healthy Habits :-)
PS: This article is inspired from the book “The Power Of Habits”