How To Purge Your Bad Habits

Any habit is formed by continuous doing, by doing the same thing over and over again repetitively until it becomes instinctive. This can apply to sports: the more you practice the less you have to think about it when you do it, but it could also apply to things like smoking where you instinctively reach for a cigarette in the morning. Just as you can form bad habits you can form good habits, but you have to consciously form good habits. People often develop bad habits because the things that are bad for you often feel good, it takes no effort to form a bad habit. We humans are creatures of habit so you cannot stop yourself from forming them, the only thing that you can do is redirect you bad habits into good ones.

The Psychology Of Habitual Behaviour

Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form, that is because when we form a habit new near pathways are formed in our brain. It is hard to break out of the hard wiring of our brain but it can be done through repetition. University College London carried out a study on how long it takes to form a new good habit, the average length of time was 66 days. So if you want to form a good habit you have to be in it for the long haul. The study also found that participants made greater progress at the beginning of the trial but that this slowed down over time, they compared it to running up a hill that steep at first and then levels off. Some habits will take longer to form than others, the study found people trying to get good habits that took 254 days to form. So keep that in mind, the length of time it takes you will vary according to the habit and you.

The Evolutionary Back Story To Habit Formation

We as humans are the most sophisticated animals at forming adaptable habits, this apparently is due to both our complex social structures and rapidly changing environments. We needed to be able to instinctively communicate with our large social groups without too much mental effort as well as adapt to our changing surroundings. Forming habits was the only way to cope with the large amount of data humans had to deal with, it lessened our mental effort. We have instincts passed down to us in our genes to cope with conditions that do not change, these include things like our fear of falling over. But we develop habits ourselves to cope with conditions that our parents didn’t have to, it allows us to adapt to our surroundings effectively.

How To Form Good Habits

1. Decide what habit you want to form. This may seem obvious but as I said earlier it’s going to take you a long time to form a good habit so you are going to have to choose one that you can commit to. Find a habit that you really want to develop that is going to benefit your life in some way. This could be running very day or stopping smoking.

2. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle. If you want to form any good habit then you need to be doing it every day. Repletion, repletion, repletion is the only way to form a habit. Don’t make excuses why you cannot do it, a habit half formed is not a habit at all.

3. Set yourself small goals. Sometimes the hardest part for people of completing a goal is to start it. If your goal is to start running 5km a day then start of by aiming to do 1km. Many people never start at all because their goals are too large, start with the aim of 1km and you will probably find you run the whole 5km. Keep your vision of success in mind but take it one step at a time.

4. Put your new habit after a solid habit. For example if you want to start running do it after you brush your teeth, you brush your teeth every day so you will always know exactly when to go for a run. Having a definite starting time is a great way to stop yourself backing out.

5. Don’t forget your goal. You may not perform the habit one day and feel like a failure. Often when people fail to perform on day they think they have blown it, they then stop for good because they think to themselves: “i’ve failed anyway, why bother.” This is not the mindset you want, when you feel yourself failing use it as an incentive to work harder.

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