Knowing how habits are formed gives us vital awareness with to how to break bad habits, create good habits and how to AVOID creating any bad habits in the future.
Essentially, habits are developed through frequent repetition and reinforcement and are links between a stimulus and a response. Most of our habits were shaped during our formative years and were passed down from our parents. Like all behaviours, we learnt these from observation and modelling. They can also be in part attributed to our personality, experience and education.
To carry out behaviours, our brain sends messages to the rest of our body through the different nerve cells. Frequently repeated thoughts or actions create neural pathways and the more frequent the repetition, the stronger the connection and the wider the pathway will become. The constant recurrence decreases the biochemical resistance to that certain thought or action. That is why we can perform certain thoughts and actions almost unconsciously.
Our brain are particularly conducive to developing new habits and are designed to identify and create patterns. Neural pathways we use repeatedly tend to get stronger and wider. This leads to using them even more making them stronger. Our brain coats regularly used pathways with a myelin sheath which makes them even more resistant to change. You have probably heard the expressions, “he’s stuck in his ways” or “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” to describe someone who refuses to change their way of thinking or behaving often in light of new information or a changed environment.
This is also a powerful argument for changing bad habits NOW before the neural pathways increase and become myelin sheathed and more resistant to change. Likewise, as soon as we become aware of a negative behaviour or thought pattern that is starting to form, we should ‘nip it in the bud’ as soon as possible to avoid it becoming a habit and an ingrained part of us.
Although we will never be free of the principle of habit, we can CHOOSE which habits will become a part of our lives.
To learn more about habits and how to change them, tell us where to send your free book summary “7 Steps to Make or Break Habits”.
Tags: advice on habits, culture influence, Habit forming, Habits, upbringing