Powerful Habits Can Be Changed
Every day, every human being, performs routine behaviors that our brains have wired as Powerful Habits. Habits are rituals and behaviors that we accomplish automatically. These are activities that we do without giving much effort or thought such as brushing our teeth, using a spoon or fork to eat, getting dressed in the morning, and driving the same route to work every day. Habits free up the brain’s resources to carry out more complex tasks such as problems solving or focusing on what to cook for dinner.
Three Different Kinds Of Habits
Habits can be placed into three different groups. The first group are represented by habits that we often don’t notice because they are a regular part of our lives such as brushing teeth, tying shoelaces, or backing the car out of the garage. The second kind of habits can be described as healthy or good for us such as exercising, getting enough sleep, or eating healthy foods. The third group are what we term as “bad” habits such as smoking, eating unhealthy foods, or other addictive behaviors. Sexual compulsive behaviors fall into the third kind of habits and will be discussed in later articles about sexual addiction and changing unhealthy compulsive habit behaviors.
Habits: Cue, Routine, & Reward
Habits emerge because the brain is constantly seeking ways to save effort. The brain tries to make almost anything routine into a habit because habits take up less brain power and allows the brain to focus on more complex challenges that life presents. The habit process is a three-step loop: first is the cue, a trigger that tells your brain to enter into automatic mode and which habit to utilize. Second, there is the routine, which can be physical, mental, or emotional. Lastly, there is a reward, which helps your brain determine whether the loop is worth remembering for using in the future.
Ignore, Change, And Replace Habits
Overtime, the loop (cue, routine, reward) becomes more and more automatic. The cue and the reward are connected to produce a sense of anticipation and cravings. It is possible to ignore, change, or replace a habit but habits allow the brain to stop making decisions. Unless a person purposefully attempts to stop a habit, the habit will occur automatically. Learning how habits work can help you control, change, or replace those habits much easier.
Habits Never Fully Disappear
Habits never fully go away because each habit is encoded into the compartments of our brain. This is a good thing because we can return to the habit at any time (such as how to ski after taking time away from it during the summer). The negative part of it never going away is that your brain does not determine which habits are good habits from those that are bad habits. Both good and bad habits are simply waiting for the right cues and rewards.