CREATURES OF HABIT

That’s what the human species has been called; and I think it’s pretty accurate.  Here’s how Wikipedia defines a habit:

“The American Journal of Psychology (1903) defines a ‘habit, from the standpoint of psychology, [as] a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.’[4] Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed in persons exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. Habits are sometimes compulsory.[3][5] New behaviors can become automatic through the process of habit formation. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioral patterns which humans repeat become imprinted in neural pathways,[6] but it is possible to form new habits through repetition.[7]

Here are a few other interesting tidbits about bad habits in particular straight off of the Wikipedia page:

“A bad habit is an undesirable behavior pattern. Common examples include: procrastinationfidgetingoverspendingnail-biting.[22] The sooner one recognizes these bad habits, the easier it is to fix them.[23]

Will and intention[edit]

A key factor in distinguishing a bad habit from an addiction or mental disease is willpower. If a person has control over the behavior, then it is a habit.[24] Good intentions can override the negative effect of bad habits, but their effect seems to be independent and additive—the bad habits remain, but are subdued rather than cancelled.[25]

Elimination[edit]

Many techniques exist for removing established bad habits, e.g., withdrawal of reinforcers—identifying and removing factors that trigger and reinforce the habit.[26] The basal ganglia appear to remember the context that triggers a habit, so habits can be revived if triggers reappear.[27] Recognizing and eliminating bad habits as soon as possible is advised. Habit elimination becomes more difficult with age because repetitions reinforce habits cumulatively over the lifespan.[28] According to Charles Duhigg, there is a loop that includes a cue, routine and reward for every habit. An example of a habit loop is TV program ends (cue), go to the fridge (routine), and eat a snack (reward). The key to changing habits is to identify your cue and modify your routine and reward.”[29]

I placed special emphasis on the sentence that is, bold, underlined and italicized because I really didn’t know that even though it makes a lot of sense.  It explains some of the problems I face with breaking bad habits.  And that’s our goal; eliminate the bad habits and keep/reinforce the good ones.

The article stated that habit formation can be slow with the average time to reach the peak of automaticity to be 66 days with a range of 18-254 days.  I have heard, but the article didn’t mention it, that it takes 21 days to break a habit.  As we approach the holiday season, it will conclude with a time when we resolve to do things differently in the new year.  I do have some habits that I would like to eliminate in 2018; I’ve never been into writing down New Year’s Resolutions and I doubt that I will this year, but I will be working on breaking some habits and reinforcing others.

 

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” Samuel Johnson

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