What are habits?

According to Free Dictionary, ‘a habit is a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behaviour that is acquired through frequent repetition’.

Habits can work for or against you which is why understanding them and how they work is essential to you developing habit that moves you towards where you want to be.

James Clear, in his fascinating book ‘Atomic Habits’, describes habits as the compound interest of self-improvement – getting 1% better every day counts for a lot in the long run.

A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automatic.

When you first come up with a new situation, your brain will work out the best way to deal with it, often through trial and error – neurological activity in the brain is high during this period.

The feedback loop for all human behaviour is to try – fail – learn – try differently – explore, explore, explore then – bam! A reward, we find a solution or a way to move forward.

If we have to deal with that situation repeatedly, we get more practiced. Our brain begins to automate the process, we don’t need to keep going through the analysis of the situation. As soon as we experience a familiar trigger, our brain will automatically reach for the solution without the need for any conscious thought.

Having our sub-conscious take over allows our conscious brain more space and energy to focus on new challenges and creativity.

Habits can work for us or against us. Often we may have fallen into habits that do not serve us in the long-term.

For example, we feel stressed and want to feel better. We may have discovered that playing squash or going for a run relieves that stressful feeling. Just as easily, we may have discovered that smoking, eating chocolate or drinking wine helps to relieve that stressful feeling.

The trigger would be getting that stressful feeling – depending on your habits, you may lean towards an action that has a positive compound effect or possibly one that doesn’t.

As James Clear rightly says ‘Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits’. So if there is an area of your life that you are not happy with, whether that is your health, wealth, work or relationships, it is worth looking at your automatic behaviours around that particular area.

In order to change your habits, you need to first be aware of them. Being aware of them is not enough to change anything, but it is the first step. It is then worth recognising why you are doing a certain thing and what you can put in place to change it.

Changing a habit can seem a daunting task with ideas and beliefs that it takes at least 21 days to embed a habit. I have done a lot of study on this subject recently. I believe that it is possible to create or change any behaviour and embed it as a habit. It does take some conscious effort, but not as much as you might think.

If you are interested in finding out more, I have created a 7-day Developing Healthy Habits Mini-Course and Challenge. Here I guide you through looking at your automatic behaviours – your habits – to consciously consider whether or not they are serving you in the long term.

Using human psychology and behavioural science it is possible to develop habits, that are not only healthy for your bodies and minds, but also move you towards what you really want in life.

If you are interested in finding out more, I am running this Mini-Course and Challenge FREE of Charge in my Facebook group starting on 5th October – if you want to find out more, message me or register by following this link :