Habits are what form your life
“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our existence and our future.”
– Gretchen Rubin
A habit is a routine of behavior that has been repeated enough times to occur subconsciously. In other words – our brain processes habits on autopilot. During the habit-building period, neurological activity in the brain increases. Your brain processes tons of information and stores it in places. The main reason the brain remembers your past choices is to allow you to do more of what you want in the future. When habits are created, the brain’s activity decreases. When a similar situation occurs in the future, you can automatically apply the same solution without analyzing every single angle of a situation. Decisions that previously required effort are now running on autopilot. Our response is simply a habit.
The great news is that you can change your habits anytime.
How habits work
A loop of building a habit consists of four simple parts: cue, craving, response, and reward. Diving deep into these fundamental components can help us get a better understanding of how habit works and how to improve it.
The cue. A tiny bit of information that predicts the pleasant outcome – a reward, triggering your brain to spark a behavior. Your mind is continuously analyzing your environment for cues that bring rewards. Knowing that we’re close to an award, it leads us to a craving.
Cravings are the fundamentals underlying every habit. Without a desire for a reward, there’s a lack of motivation for a change, meaning there’s no reason to take action. It’s not the habit itself that you’re craving for, but the change of state that it brings. You’re not craving for a cigarette, and you want the feeling of relief it provides. When you light a cigarette, it changes your internal state.
Then comes the response. The response is simply a form of action. It depends on how motivated you are or how much resistance is linked with the behavior.
The response delivers the reward. Rewards are the touchdown of every habit. Let’s summarize the process of how habits work. The cue is about predicting the reward. Cravings are about wanting the award. The response is acting toward getting the compensation. Finally, getting a reward gives us satisfaction.
There are deeper motives that hide behind our behavior. Our brain didn’t evolve with a desire to perform bad habits, such as smoking or eating unhealthy. Looking at a deeper level, by completing bad habits, our main objective is to relieve anxiety and reduce uncertainty, or to be socially accepted. It might be smoking a cigarette to reduce stress at work, eating unhealthy because it saves time and gives pleasure. We learned to associate behaviors with the problems we need to solve. But it’s necessarily the best way to solve problems.
Habit tracking comes to help!
When you record your habits, you’re constantly reminded to act again. According to studies, people who track their progress on getting in shape, quitting smoking, or eating healthy are more likely to improve than those who don’t. Merely keeping a daily food log can help lose twice as much weight as without it. Tracking your habits creates a trigger that initiates the behavior. What bad habit do you want to change?