Diving down the habit holeby scottdogs 25 Jan 2016
So, you're giving up a month of sugar or alcohol for febfast? You may find yourself wondering what the difference is between¬† dependence and a habit. For example: are you dependent on that 3pm chocolate bar, or are you in the habit of just eating one each afternoon?
In this post we'll explore the topic of habits, and how we can break our bad ones, getting them to work in our favour.¬† So what exactly is a habit? A habit is a routine that you do on a regular basis. It is a pattern of behaviour, often unconscious, that has been developed by frequent repetition. Brushing your teeth when you wake up every morning, or taking your shoes off when you get home from work are habits that most of us have developed.
Why are habits hard to break?
Did you know that up to 45% of our behaviour is automatic? That's all habitual! Your brain is always looking for ways to save energy and by doing the same things the same way every day, it doesn't have to think about the processes behind the action. (Yep, even your brain wants some time out occasionally).
Because habits are your brain's auto-pilot mode, breaking a bad habit can be quite difficult. You need to train your brain all over again to stop it, and this time you have to do it consciously!
What happens in our brain when habits are formed?
Ok so we already know that habits are a way for our brains to save energy, but you want to know HOW it does it, right?¬† To put it simply, when you do something new, your brain will record the process of this new thing, divide it into small chunks and store¬† it away.¬† When you do the same action again, your brain will retrieve the stored information from the last time, and some of the process is then automated. The more times you do it, the less brain activity is required each time. It's really quite clever!
Tips on how to break habits
While all the information on the science behind habits is really fascinating (well, it is to us!), how on earth do we go about breaking them? It's true when they say that habits never truly die; they are just overpowered by competing habits. So the best plan of action to break a habit is to replace it with a new one! (No, we don't mean that you should replace that 3pm chocolate bar with a milkshake, but you're in the ballpark). Creating new habits requires repetition, the more you repeat it, the stronger it becomes.
Every habit involves a cue, a routine and a reward. Example: You're hungry when you get home from work (cue) so you reach for the cookie jar (routine) and eat a cookie which stops the hunger (reward). You want to stop that? When you get that cue, instead of going for the cookies, grab an apple, you still get a reward, but it's better for you. This can be applied to a whole host of habits, and before you know it, you're leading a healthier lifestyle without even thinking about it!
Key milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, New Year or febfast will help reset the clock on your goals. If you link a resolution to a particular landmark, studies show that the likelihood of achieving this goal is increased, there's no time like the present!
Want to break your sugar or alcohol habit? Sign up for febfast and get through the month together with thousands of others across Australia.