Changing Your Habits

An understanding of how the brain develops habits and what needs to be done in order to make a change.

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Our habits are ultimately what generates our entire lives. And let’s admit, we’re all guilty of a bad habit or two.

It’s not uncommon for someone to put one of these bad habits into perspective and think, “I’d like to change that.”

We seek to better our habits purely for the sake of bettering ourselves.

This blog will look into how habits formulate in the brain. Then I’ll look into ways in which one can change these formulations to better their daily routines.

Understanding Your Mind’s Procedure

Though the brain can be quite complicated, the way in which it forms habits is quite simple.

Neurologically speaking, where you decide to put your focus amplifies the importance of that subject. In an example, let’s say you want to center your attention on reading. The more you read over time, the more significance reading will have on you.

The same can be said for bad habits too. If you decide to put long hours into a video game, your brain will find that video game important.

This always occurs with repeated focus – no matter what the focus is on.

The repetition eventually becomes a sequence of conditioned response. Or, in other words, a habit.

We develop habits whether we consider them or not simply because the brain processes what we’re accustomed to at a very quick rate. This is why so many face difficulty when trying to develop a new habit to replace a bad one.

However, that’s not to say it’s impossible. In fact, it might be easier than you suspect.

What you need is an idea, a bit of imagination, and strong motivation.

Where Do You Want to Take Your Habits?

The question above can be reworded to ask, where do you want to take yourself? As already mentioned, our habits are what defines us as individuals.

When you’re looking to change a habit, you’re ultimately looking to change yourself.

The first step to doing so successfully is to come up with an idea for change. In an example, let’s say I’m binge-watching television series when I should be doing my homework.

The idea for change would be to stop spreeing through episodes and, instead, be more productive with my education.

The purpose of coming up with an idea is for the sake of replacing that bad habit you loathe. And nearly every bad habit can find a replacement with a good one.

  • I want to stop eating so much fast food. I learn how to cook for myself.
  • I want to stop sleeping in so late. I set my alarm early and go to bed sooner too.
  • I want to quit smoking cigarettes. I take up meditation to relax.

I guarantee no matter what your bad habit is, there’s something to replace it with.

Furthermore, there might be some of you who aren’t necessarily looking to change a bad habit. Rather, you desire to start new ones that will have a positive impact.

Whichever case is yours, you’re going to need a solid imagination.

Picture Yourself in Your New Habit

Or, imagine a new you. Habit changing can be life-changing and the very first step to going through with this is by imagining yourself where you want to be.

There will be barriers placed before you which must be overcome. Can you picture yourself doing so?

In my previous example, I said I wish to quit binge-watching and start doing my homework. Obviously, following an expansive story through a list of interesting characters is going seem way more interesting than figuring out how quantum theory works.

That’s why it’s become a habit. I’m more interested in television than I am in math. My brain has become accustomed to allowing myself to binge-watch. Now I can’t help but take the television over math.

The purpose of me changing is to picture myself in a position where I’m not more interested in television. I imagine that quantum theory actually excites me and makes me want to dive into complicated equations.

Can you picture yourself in the new habit you wish to develop? How would you go about the change? What kind of mental barriers are you going to need to overcome?

These are questions to ask and consider before you finally decide to practice.

Acting Upon Your New Habit

Now it’s time to get to work on creating the person you desire to be. To get into the habit of something you’re not accustomed to.

Scientifically speaking, it takes about six weeks for the brain to recognize that repetition I mentioned earlier. That means it’s going to take about a month and a half of practice before your habit gets going on its own.

As I’ve mentioned before, you need to be motivated in order to accomplish this. If you only kind of want to change a habit, it’s most likely not going to happen.

Your desire for change is what becomes the key to unlocking a change.

When you go about this practice, you’ll also notice behavioral changes. With each barrier you overcome, your brain will start to customize itself to the habits.

The more you push, the more you’ll notice a difference in yourself.

How to Go About Change

Everyone works differently. Therefore, the way in which people decide to change their habits will vary.

Though I don’t have any universal specifics, there are some ideas here to be tossed around when considering your habit change.

  • Write it down. Whether you have a progress journal or a scrap napkin sitting next to you, it can help greatly to put down your desired change in print. This allows for a reminder of where you want to take yourself. Furthermore, you can also use writing as a means of understanding how you feel about a bad habit. In my example of binge-watching, I can write down a detailed analysis of how I feel right before flipping on the television. With that, I’ll have in mind the behaviors I need to change.
  • Think of where you’re taking yourself and the conduct that will be necessary in order to achieve such a feat. Your bad habits most likely have a negative impact you’re looking to move away from. Take that negative impact into consideration and develop an understanding of the positive impact even a minor change will have.
  • Keep at it. There’s going to be obstacles and, at times, you might just want to give up. It’s important you push and don’t stop. Especially once you’ve started. The key fact to remember is that it only takes six little weeks to make a change that can impact your entire life.

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