Why are habits so important? Well, habits dictate somewhere between 40% and 95% of our actions and thoughts. Even the conservative estimate of 40% is pretty impressive; almost half of our life runs on autopilot...
Why are habits so important? Well, habits dictate somewhere between 40% and 95% of our actions and thoughts. Even the conservative estimate of 40% is pretty impressive; almost half of our life runs on autopilot.
Habits influence how you eat, sleep, dress, work, and respond to all kinds of situations.
But why are they so pervasive?
Your brain has a lot of work to do. There's a lot of sensory information to process, thoughts to think, and decisions to make. So it wants to automate its job as much as possible.
Let's take a look at how your brain does this.
Imagine that you come home from work feeling tired and stressed. You start scrolling through your Facebook feed, and after a while, you feel better because the endless stream of memes and selfies has distracted you from your work-related stress.
Your brain memorizes that when you're stressed, using social media makes you forget about the source of your stress.
After that, stress will trigger a specific behavior (browsing social media) which, in turn, leads to a reward (feeling distracted and entertained).
These are the components of every habit: a cue that makes you do a specific routine because there'll be a reward afterwards.
Since you experience pretty much the same cues every day (waking up, feeling hungry, facing a deadline, going shopping, trying to overcome sleepiness, and so on), your brain can just trigger the respective routines without having to think much. Sleepy? Mindlessly grab a coffee. Hungry? Go get a random snack from the fridge. Bored? Check notifications on your phone.
Actually, habits aren't a bad thing. By automating around half of your daily actions and thoughts, your brain has more energy to cope with important tasks that require creativity and focus. Habits only become bad when they don't align with your goals!
Now that you know the neurological mechanism behind habits, you can start reprogramming the ones you don't like.
Building healthy habits can make your life much easier. The habit of going to bed on time will help you wake up energized. The habit of eating vegetables while watching TV can seriously reduce the amount of extra calories you eat every day. The habit of planning your days can boost your productivity, leading to a more successful and less stressful career.
So work on improving your habits – it's definitely worth the effort!