Our daily habits compose about 50% of all of our thoughts and actions. Habits are automatic behaviors that are triggered and enacted with minimal thinking or effort.
Since habits are such an important and significant part of our health and who we are as human beings, it’s important to carefully analyze them and make sure they are helping us reach, not preventing us from, our goals.
Scientific research has discovered that habits are formed when a decision to carry out some action is reinforced numerous times with some type of reward. Over time, an action that was once once the result of a conscious decision becomes a subconscious action.
There are three parts to every habit:
- The trigger – there is always some event that triggers the habit-storing part of the brain, a time of day, a situation, a smell, a feeling, etc.
- The action – once something triggers the habit, the brain carries out the habit with very little conscious thought. The habit-storing part of the brain essentially bypasses the reasoning part of the brain.
- The reward – after the action is carried out there is some type of reward that further solidifies the action into a habit.
Comfort eating is a good example of a habit forming behavior:
- The trigger – coming home after a rough day at work
- The action – eating ice cream
- The reward – the good taste, insulin release, and dopamine release caused by sugar ingestion
People who make major transformations in their lives are typically those who understand and replace their negative habits with positive ones.
The path to forming good habits involves honesty and introspection. Try to determine your negative behaviors. What is triggering them? What kind of rewards are your getting out of it? If you can determine the trigger, you can either avoid the trigger or figure out a more positive reward. For example, if comfort eating is your problem, instead of eating ice cream to release dopamines, try exercise (which can also release positive endorphins and dopamines in the brain).
The other part to creating good habits is education. Many of the unhealthy habits we’ve created for ourselves are simply the result of a lack of knowledge or inaccurate knowledge. Here are a few examples of easily remedied unhealthy habits:
- Perspectives towards work and stress — Many of us have been told that stress can cause health problems. Yet, the latest psychological research indicates that stress doesn’t cause health problems, it’s primarily our believe that stress causes health problems that makes stress cause health problems! When we find meaning in our work and embrace stress as a natural reaction that helps us accomplish our job, there are no negative health consequences! For more information read here.
- Sitting at work — Sitting for 8-hours a day at work is a significant cause of diabetes and early mortality. Most people don’t think about standing as a viable alternative, but why not? There’s a growing movement of people who are using stand-up desks. Not only does standing engage your major muscle groups, it can help you be more productive too.
- Sitting on the toilet – The way we go to the bathroom is a great example of a cultural habit that can have significant health consequences. Did you know that sitting on a toilet instead of squatting can actually contribute to hemorrhoids, colon cancer, and constipation? The problem is easily remedied with a simple platform that can be used with a normal toilet. For more information read here.
- Running with thick heeled shoes – Many people aren’t able to run because of shin splints or joint pain, but these problems are often the result of running with modern shoes. New Harvard research indicates that running with minimally soled shoes, using a mid-foot for forefoot strike, is actually a healthier and more natural way to run.