What Prevents Us From Changing Our Habits

In everyday life, when talking about habits, we often don’t realize how they work. After all, what is a habit? It’s an automatic behavior that is often repeated in response to a certain context of the reality around us. That is, the moment we make a habit, we are often unaware of what is happening and act on autopilot.

It seems that we make deliberate decisions every day, but that is not quite true. Most decisions are unconscious automatic reactions to context. That’s why habits can manifest even in spite of common sense.

What Prevents Us

It seems that all it takes to change a habit is more willpower.

But the irony is that disciplined people with good habits are the people who use willpower the least. They are the least likely to force themselves to do something or forbid themselves to do something. It’s easier to use self-control little by little and to resist temptation short-term.

In contrast to people with addictions – those have to make a heroic display of willpower, so they run out of willpower much faster.

If you control some behavior, for example, set time limits at a new bookmaker, it’s not a habit, it’s willpower. Where any external factor can affect the performance of that action. For example, not going to the gym if it’s raining.

Control can be the stage of habit formation! Willpower is important to organize the system and discipline in the first steps, before the behavior becomes automatic.

The goal of a habit is to solve life’s “problems” with as little energy as possible (the brain likes to save it). Even a bad habit is subconsciously perceived as a “necessary solution”.

All habits work the same way: we expect some kind of benefit and “reward” from them. Otherwise, we wouldn’t repeat the behavior.

Humans have two areas of the brain, each with its own “memory system,” which is responsible for a different type of remembering.

Declarative memory handles “unstable” events that need to be remembered anew each time. Like where the car was parked – often it’s a new place, not like yesterday.

Procedural memory handles “stable” events that we don’t have to think about. For example, where in the car is the brake and gas pedal? Our skills and habits are in this area.

Once a habit is automated and gets into the “stable zone” of memory, it stays there forever. Therefore, it is impossible to get rid of a habit or forget it. You can only change an existing one or instill a new one as an option for a similar context.

What to Do

Awareness of the mechanism of habits (automatism, impossibility to get rid of it, strong influence of the context and environment) gives a greater acceptance of one’s behavior. This is evolutionary, and we function based on our nature. And it would be worse if it were the other way around! For example, people with damage to the area of the brain fatih eskort responsible for procedural memory cannot function normally in everyday life.

It’s necessary to be aware of the division of behavior into habits and willpower – it helps to be less upset when something does not work out. This way you will form realistic expectations and a conscious understanding of your actions that this is only the first step. This motivates you to keep going while the new behavior becomes automatic.

And although a habit is an automatic behavior, it isn’t the same as a reflex.

It’s a conscious choice that you have made in the past. That is, the decision was beneficial and justified by something at the time. And when repeated many times, your brain has remembered that in that context and that’s how it works best.

So if you do something, it means there is some benefit to you. Even if it’s imperceptible. For example, eating chips for lunch. Behind this desire may be a need to distract from work, a desire to walk to the store, to chat in the company of people, to “feed” anxiety or a bad mood, etc.

In the long term, in terms of health, the habit is “bad,” but in the short term it solves a certain problem. Therefore, the habit is easier to change if one understands its true motive.

Conversely, being inattentive to the stimulus can provoke the behavior you really want to get rid of. Imagine a person who overeats from anxiety. If you intimidate him with the negative consequences of his reluctance to go on a diet, it will only cause anxiety and provoke the need to “eat it up” urgently. Bad habits feed on themselves. And when we suppress a feeling, we reinforce it.

Disciplined people tend to organize their areas of life so as to automate them. That is, they don’t think, they just do! Self-control is a short-term strategy. People are irrational and succumb to emotion. Therefore, the most long-term strategy in habits is to discipline not yourself, but the environment around you.

Analyze what around you is a catalyst for positive and negative behavior. Even trivial little things can be an obstacle. People eat less fruit due to the fact that in the fridge they are further away than other products. More often a person chooses what is closer, more accessible and in front of his eyes. So put the desired stimulus in the most prominent place.

Habit is a contextual action. So it’s easier to change them in a new environment. A new place, new rituals. And until the new action is automatic – don’t give in to negative behavior patterns. Control it until the new habit becomes automatic.

If possible, don’t mix the context of one habit with another. Otherwise, the habits that are easier to follow (which are usually the most negative and lazy ones) will win out.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if the old habit shows up when you return to the old context. This is an opportunity to better analyze the incentives for the negative behavior, and to reorganize the environment and context of the new habit.

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