Do you go through your social media accounts first thing in the morning and check them all? Or have you been buying yourself a sweet pastry every morning for the past week and are worried that a donut every now and then would turn into a habit? Habits are an important part of our lives; we all have them to some degree. Some are decent, some are bad, and some, like donuts, can get really bad.
Stephen Guise, the author of Mini Habits, not only offers some useful knowledge about how to manage bad habits and develop more positive ones, but he also provides some useful knowledge on the very nature of habits – how they grow, how they evolve, and how they can help you achieve your goals.
Do you ever feel like you’re on autopilot? We don’t have to worry about what we’re doing when we take our morning showers or brush our teeth. What is the reason for this? Since we’ve made these necessary everyday practices into routines – that is, things that we’ve performed so many times that they’ve become second nature to us.
In reality, habit governs many of our daily activities. According to a Duke University survey, 45 percent of our actions are automatic. When we’re nervous, we’re especially vulnerable to slipping into old habits.
Another UCLA study found that when we’re under strain, exhausted, or stressed, we’re more likely to return to repetitive behaviour. Unfortunately, this occurs if our practices are beneficial or harmful to our health.
Why does tension have such a negative impact on us? Stress, on the other hand, is often the product of being unable to make such decisions. Habits, on the other hand, are something we don’t have to choose. They’ve been pre-programmed into our lives. We fall back on our routines when we’re tired and can’t make a decision. If you catch yourself talking online or consuming donuts while you’re stressed, it’s likely that you’re engaging in habitual behaviors. Maybe you don’t want them to be!
If that’s the case, there’s good news: bad habits can be broken. After all, patterns are nothing more than the brain’s neural pathways. They thicken with use and deteriorate if not properly cared for. Simply by repeating behaviors until they become easier and easier, you may shape your own habits.
As a result, if you want to start waking up early in the morning, the first few weeks will be difficult due to the poor neural pathways. But, over time, your brain will intensify the connection between waking up and getting out of bed, while the habit of rolling over and falling back asleep will become increasingly weak. Your neural pathways will be doing all the work for you before you know it, leaving you bright-eyed and ready to start the day.
Imagine having to make educated decisions about might and every product you purchase at the supermarket. Grocery shopping will take an eternity! This is where habits enter the picture. The basal ganglia, a part of our brain, is in charge of programming our automatic habits so that we don’t even notice them. Consider the automatic act of selecting an ice cream flavor. Even in a posh gelato shop with an array of enticing flavors, we frequently opt for something familiar, such as vanilla.
What is the reason for this? It’s what we’re used to, due to our basal ganglia, and so it’s what we naturally gravitate toward. The record of a habit in the basal ganglia gets stronger and stronger the more we repeat it. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for awake, sound decision making, is often overpowered by the basal ganglia. This section of our brain, unlike the basal ganglia, considers long-term implications of behavior as well as abstract principles like morality.
The prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, has one big flaw: it gets exhausted quickly. Making the best choices requires a lot of work. Although we will find it easy to avoid the tub of ice cream in the freezer for the majority of the day, the prefrontal cortex is likely to give up once it becomes tired. Your basal ganglia will take over at this stage, and you’ll find yourself holding a big bowl of cookies and cream once more!
Of course, motivation is beneficial – but we are normally most inspired to do things we enjoy, such as go on vacation. On the other hand, when it comes to spring cleaning, we can’t seem to find the inspiration. Motivation has its drawbacks, especially because it varies depending on how we feel. It’s easy to do a series of 20 push-ups before breakfast when you’re feeling great, but it’s not so easy when you’re hungover!
Furthermore, the more we do something, the less motivated we become because it becomes boring. Imagine having a mouth full of cavities if you depended solely on encouragement to brush your teeth every day!
Basically, inspiration alone isn’t enough to help you form good habits. Fortunately, there is another method that is much more suited to assisting us in making changes in our lives. This method can only get stronger with use, rather than weakening. So, what exactly is it?
Willpower is a powerful tool. Psychologists are well aware of the advantages of willpower. One professor also required his students to use their willpower for two weeks in order to develop their normal sitting posture. They not only sat up straighter in class, but they also displayed more self-control in other aspects of their lives!
You stretch your own willpower muscle every time you start a new good habit, such as meditating every day. You can also use this muscle for other things like cooking fresh food every day, keeping in touch with your mates, and whatever else you want to accomplish. Unlike inspiration, willpower can be counted on. You can build it up and depend on it once you have.
Yes, you should try to make doing 100 push-ups every morning a routine. However, once you reach the age of 20, your resolve is likely to sag, and it won’t be long until you’re reaching for the cookie jar once more. Willpower is amazing, but it doesn’t seem to be so when we first use it. So, when starting from scratch, how do we improve our willpower?
Mini habits are the answer here. You will stop losing your willpower by setting small, almost ridiculously small targets. After all, effort, perceived challenge, and exhaustion are the key threats to our willpower, so why not select a goal that requires minimal effort?
Picking a simple target reduces all illusions of complexity and isn’t overwhelming enough to exhaust you. In other words, it’s a complete treatment for a lack of willpower. Mini habits get you moving, and once you’re moving, it takes less willpower to keep going. An object in motion can not change its velocity unless an external force acts on it, according to Newton’s first law.
To put it another way, the most difficult challenge we normally face is moving from inertia to mobility. You will be sure to get off to a good start if you have a little habit to help you get started. In reality, you may discover that you’re capable of accomplishing more than you expected!
Check out my related post: How to change your habits to live longer?