Habits play an essential role in your life by making behaviors automatic. A study found that on average 35,000 decisions are made every day. Take into account, 7-9 hours of sleep, and that is a lot of decision-making in one day!
Luckily, habits makeup about 40-45% of our decision-making.
Could you imagine having to actively think about how to tie up your shoelaces, brush your teeth or driving you’re car reminding yourself every time – gas is on the right, the break is on the left. Habits make these behaviors automatic, so they happen without reaching your consciousness.
Over time a behavior that is acted on repeatedly becomes a habit when it occurs unconsciously. Although when we talk about habits in our everyday lives, they fall on a broader spectrum. From regular exercise, healthy eating, waking up at a certain hour or practicing daily mindfulness and gratitude.
These are more significant habits than washing in the shower. They take some conscientious action but don’t require the decision-making process of non-habitual behaviors.
You know the feeling of lying in bed and fighting the mental battle of sleeping in for a few more minutes or getting up. But once you make getting up at a certain hour a habit, the battle doesn’t occur because the action no longer requires questioning – you get up.
Decision-making is the most considerable strain on your willpower. The more time you spend trying to decide the more exhausting, it becomes and less likely the right decision will be made. Creating these types of positive habits in your life will save your willpower to be used in more critical decisions.
Habits, once formed are almost impossible to break. Although behaviors can be changed, by using what author Charles Duhigg refers to as The Habit Loop.
The Habit Loop consists of 3 clear steps
1. Trigger, which cues your behavior
2. Behaviour, which happens automatically
3. Reward, received after engaging in the behavior & closes the loop
Here are some examples of habits, which fall under The 5 Triggers.
|1 – Time||Wake Up||Drink Coffee||Feel Energized|
|2 – Place||Bar||Drink Beer||Feel Relaxed|
|3 – After an activity||Go to Bathroom||Wash Hands||Feel Clean|
|4 – Emotional state||Stressed||Eat Ice Cream||Feel Better|
|5 – Social Influence||Smokers||Smoke||Social Connection|
Waking up in the morning triggers your behavior to make a coffee, which consuming provides a reward of feeling energized. While stress may make you want to eat cake and feel good, going to the washroom triggers your behavior to wash your hands and feel clean.
These triggers happen in the background of our mind, and we may engage in an action without even thinking about it. Just as waking up in the morning doesn’t have to lead to drinking a coffee, going to a bar can lead to ordering something other than a beer. Although the rewards received from acting on the behavior make them desirable, which is why we continue to engage in them.
The Trigger Effect
The psychology behind it goes, when this trigger happens, I engaged in a certain behavior and received a reward. Therefore, when faced with the same triggers it only makes sense our psyche evaluates how we acted in past events and will choose a desirable outcome which provides a positive reward.
You may have noticed how each reward is intrinsic; in which it has a personal meaning to you – a feeling. Although an extrinsic reward such as a prize, gift, or raise may provide motivation, only works for a short period. Intrinsic rewards are personally satisfying and don’t offer a tangible benefit but last over the long term.
Unfortunately, intrinsic rewards may provoke destructive behaviors. Smoking a cigarette provides a feeling of relaxation, but also has negative consequences. Excessive drinking, overeating and even to much exercise can become bad habits, cued from one or many of the 5 triggers.
A habit loop once created, is difficult to stop. Although there are 4 Simple Steps to Breaking Your Bad Habit, which has proven successful. In the end, you must find something that works for you by identifying what triggers your negative behaviors.
Spend the next week more self-aware of your actions. What kind of habits do you notice in your daily routine? Can you associate those habits with specific triggers in your day and which category do they fall under? Becoming more actively aware throughout the day, you’ll come to realize the sheer amount of behaviors that you engage in which are habitual.