how do habits form?
There are many different, intentional and unintentional ways to form habits. Some can be established through pure grit and determination, and some, usually the bad habits are established with out even knowing or realizing.
Regardless of the habit that is formed, both good and bad habits, the formation of the habit comes from the following feedback loop:
As an example of this feedback loop, lets take one’s desire to relax after a long day of work…
You have just finished a long day at work and after sitting in traffic or on the metro for your commute home you finally sit down and have a chance to sit down and relax. You finish your dinner, pour yourself a glass of wine or grab a bowl of ice cream, sit on the couch, open your phone to Instagram and begin scrolling through your feed while sipping on your glass of wine or eating your bowl of ice cream.
As you are doing this you immediately feel the sense of relaxation that you had been wanting to achieve and your mind is monetarily at ease. If this is a single, isolated occurrence, it is not a habit but over time you notice you begin to do the same thing multiple times a week, or even daily.
It is at this point that you have just created a habit through the habit feedback loop.
Let’s breakdown the actions you took and take on a daily basis to feed into this feedback loop —
As you are on your way home from work, the cue to your mind that you are desiring relaxation comes from the time you spend on the metro, or your drive home. You have time to think about some of the stressful things that happened throughout your day and rightfully so you begin to desire something that will bring you relaxation. In itself, there is absolutely nothing about thinking this, feeling this or desiring this.
Once you arrive home, assuming you did not use an unhealthy dinner as your means of achieving relaxation, you have your dinner and you begin looking for a means to achieve relaxation. The repeated decision to have what may have started out as a small glass of wine or a small bowl of ice cream has turned into the routine that you use to achieve your reward, which is the feeling of relaxation.
Again, in its core there is nothing wrong with wanting to relax after a long day of work, however, the habit of having one or several glasses of wine or an unhealthy snack after you have already eaten dinner is not a healthy routine to help you achieve the reward, which is the feeling of relaxation.
The formula for changing this habit is the same formula that it took to establish this habit, with just one variable changed. To change the habit that you have created, allow the cue and the reward to stay the same just simply change the routine.
Instead of pouring the glass of wine or eating the bowl of ice cream, put your shoes on and go for a nice long walk without your phone and allow yourself time to think. Because you have allowed the cue to remain the same, but have changed the routine, the reward will remain the same but you have now (over time of course) created a much healthier habit.
Soon enough the long walk may turn into a short run and the short run may turn into coming to a CrossFit class all of which are far better methods of achieving the reward of relaxation we desire after a long day at work than a few glasses of wine and ice cream.
Whether we realize it or not, the habit feedback loop is constantly at work throughout our day guiding us through our day and through our daily routines.
The first step in changing one of these habits is to identify the habit itself and then to acknowledge three things: the cue, the routine and the reward.
To change the habit, allow the cue and the reward to stay the same, simply change the routine and allow yourself to enjoy the reward knowing you have provided yourself this reward through a healthy, productive routine.
Disclaimer: The ideas, thoughts, and suggestions detailed in this blog post and subsequent blog posts are the ideas, thoughts, and suggestions of Matt Moosavian and are not necessarily reflective of Urban Athletic Club as a whole, or the UAC staff individually. More Blog Posts.