- A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. (Oxford Dictionary)
- A usual way of behaving; something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way. (Merriam-Webster)
- A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition; an established disposition of the mind or character. (The Free Dictionary)
It’s interesting that a simple word like “habit” can have similar and yet slightly distinct meanings in three different online dictionaries; Merriam-Webster seems to give the standard definition, while Oxford mentions that habits are so engrained that they are hard to break, and The Free Dictionary expands the topic to assert the subconscious nature of habits. It’s this last definition that I’m most interested in.
I recently watched a TED Talks (I’ve mention TED Talks before – it’s great fodder for the mind and I highly recommend them) called The Power of Habit which spoke to a study that measured brain activity during the completion of habitual behavior; the study found that the neurological activity would show a brief stimulation at the beginning, a large dip in the middle, and another brief moment of stimulation at the end. This finding is now known as The Habit Loop.
The presenter claims that all habits have 3 components: there’s the initial cue or trigger for the habit to start which is the initial stimulation, then the habit itself, gone about almost subconsciously, and then the reward or the final stimulation which also helps the brain remember and repeat the habit later.
So why am I telling you all this? Well to recap, 11 of the goals that I’ve come up with for myself this year are really about creating new habits:
- Blog 2 times weekly.
- Drink 8 glasses of water daily.
- Eat dinner at the kitchen table every week night.
- Eat salad daily.
- Exercise for 45 minutes 3 times weekly.
- Floss daily.
- Go 1 day every week without TV.
- Go to bed by 10:30pm every week night.
- Keep a gratitude journal daily.
- Reduce alcohol intake to 5 drinks or less weekly.
- Take multivitamins daily.
From the definitions listed above and from the information provided by TED Talks, it seems to me that I’ll have truly created new habits once they become second nature; if I’m basically able to sleep through the accomplishment of the habit itself – kind of like brushing my teeth every morning (come to think of it, did I do that today?) – then it’s likely I’ve succeeded in formulating the new habit. And maybe I could help the process along by seeing if and how they fit into The Habit Loop theory.
However, like any journey there’s bound to be a few bumps in the road (and that’s not the only cliché I’m tapping today!). I’m not going to lie; the last month has been tough. I’ve been attending physiotherapy to counteract my stiff neck and shoulders as a result from the car accident a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been told to take it easy in the exercising department. Also since losing Jade I’ve had some days where I’ve simply been less inclined to do anything and my mind is harder to focus. As a result, the thought of achieving any of my goals has fallen slightly by the wayside. Still, I’m optimistic that I will begin making more progress very soon. Time heals all wounds, right?
In the meantime, I’ve been considering how best to keep myself accountable to adopting these new habits; unlike with some of my other goals, these aren’t just one-time, I did it and now I’m done, kinds of goals. I needed to think of a way to track my progress that would be easy enough to use on a daily basis and not feel like yet another chore, or another habit to adopt. Naturally, considering my love for making lists and checking things off, my mind went immediately to creating a checklist. I thought I could post it somewhere accessible, like in our bathroom or on the fridge, and it would provide an easy visual of where I’m at in my habit-creation. It was an easy solution.
However, then I realized that trying to adopt 11 new habits simultaneously is slightly ridiculous; I know I’m trying to create these habits by mid-March next year, which is not that far away when you think about it, but perhaps it would be best approached bit by bit rather than all at the same time? Sometimes, I dive into things with such enthusiasm that I fail to see logic and I go a little crazy.
So instead I’ve decided to focus on 1 or 2 habits per month (maybe 3 if I can’t shake the craziness), and I’ll slowly build up to 11 as the year goes on. A little less intense, right? I think so. Keep an eye out for my first attempt coming soon!
Have you consciously tried to adopt any new habits? What do you think of The Habit Loop theory and the automation of habits?