Forming New Habits

So, what’s the secret formula to form a new habit?

Creating a new habit  can be seen as creating a path of worn grass in a public lawn. If you walk through a path once, it won’t do anything to the grass. If you walk for 5 days, you might get something that resembles a path, but if you stop doing it, the lawn will quickly recover and your path will disappear. What if you walk through the same path, everyday, during a month? You’ll probably create a permanent “worn grass” path!

The key is repetition: you have to repeat the behavior consistently, until the pathways become etched in your brain. Avoid skipping, you should do it on regular basis.

How long should it take to get a habit?

It takes time, and you should be patient.  Again, back to the grass analogy, you can’t create a path by stepping on it just once. A week is not enough either. Maybe two weeks?  I’m pretty sure you can do it in three weeks!

What else can you do to facilitate the process?

Reward yourself. Associating some form of reward  during your habit formation will make the process much easier. You can be creative and setup any kind of reward you can think of.   For example, allow you to browse your favorite websites, play  your favorite video game, eat your favorite snack, only after you’ve performed your daily dosage of your “new habit”.

Keeping track of your progress is also a form of reward, it gives you a sense of control. Write down a list stating your progress “Day 1…Day 2…Day 3…” and post it somewhere  in the house where other members of the family can see it. Making others aware of your accomplishments can be a valuable reward.

The Power of Habits (the good ones)

Think about something you can do very well without thinking. How about breathing? Isn’t it amazing? You can breath slower, faster. You can breath deeper, shallower. But even if you don’t think about it, you can still breath. You can read a letter, eat, talk to your friends, drive a car, watch a movie…and still breath.

Imagine if you had to think about breathing all the time: “OK, now I’m going to breath in..OK I’m done, now I’m going to breath out.”. This would be so time consuming that you wouldn’t have time to do anything else. How would you pay attention to a movie if you had to think about breathing in …and breathing out….breathing in … breathing out…. How could you drive cars, read letters, eat, talk to friends… it would be almost impossible. Imagine how exhausted you would feel by the end of the day.

Breathing is not a “habit”, but it is very close to being one. It shares the same properties. A habit is a form of learned behavior that you do without thinking. Breathing is also an automatic behavior, which you can do without thinking. The only difference is that it is innate (you don’t need to learn how to do it, is already hardwired in your nervous system when you are born).

So, a habit is a behavior you learn, which can work the same way as breathing. How powerful that is! You have the power to do it, so take advantage of it. Use it for you own benefit, this feature is sitting there in your brain, waiting for you to program it. Creating good habits could save you so much time and release your brain to do much more interesting things.