[bluebox]Habits can be changed if we understand how they work.[/bluebox]
The Power of Habit is an interesting book, which tells how habits work on a neurological level. ‘More than 40 % of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits,’ one paper published by a Duke University concluded.
The neurology of habit formations:
Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often.
Our basal ganglia have devised a clever system to determine when to let habits take over. It’s something that happens whenever a chunck of behavior starts or ends.
This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.
By learning to observe the cues and rewards, though, we can change the routines.
How new habits are created?
By putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop.
When a computer chimes or a smartphone vibrates with a new message, the brain starts anticipating the momentary distraction that opening an email provides. That expectation, if unsatisfied, can build until a meeting is filled with antsy executives checking their buzzing BlackBerrys under the table, even if they know it’s probably only their latest fantasy football results.
On the other hand, if someone disables the buzzing—and thus, removes the cue—people can work for hours without thinking to check their in-boxes.
You can’t extinguish a bad habit. Why transformation occurs then?—The Golden Rule.
If you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit. Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same.
But that’s not enough. For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group.