Habits play an important role in our life. A good habit will lead you to an effective life, on the other hand, bad habits can destroy your life.
But getting into bad habits is a lot easier than good habits. Breaking a bad habit is not an easy task.
In this blog, we are going to understand how bad habits are developed and how we can eliminate them completely from life.
What’s in it for me?
How bad habits are formed?
Habits are behavior that humans perform without the aid of conscious awareness. Daily activities where we do need to effort on thinking is Habits.
Bad too are forms in the same way as good habits.
Every habit goes through 4 stages of habits loop.(Know more about 4 Law of Habit)
1. Cue: It is an initial trigger for the reward of any behavior. Such as feeling stress or anxiety are cues for smoking.
Example: The feeling of boredom is a cue for playing games. Any notification on a cell phone before going to bed is the cue for late sleeping.
2. Craving: It is a motivation that drives the action to be performed. Getting a reward forms a motivation for behavior.
Example: Feeling of stress-free from smoking is craving. In the same way feeling of pleasure excites you to play Video games.
3. Response: Our action which forms habits is a response. Which in turn gives the reward.
Examples: Bad habits such as nail-biting, smoking, alcohol consumption, wasting time on social media.
4. Reward: Reward is getting satisfaction for an action. And our mind desires for more reward which leads to repeat the cycle or loop again.
Example: Eating junk food desires the mind to eat more of the same kind of food.
In this way, this loop initiates habit formation. As the frequency of adoption of this loop increases the habit becomes stronger.
The scenario is the same as the formation of bad habits. And this way we get stuck into this bad habit cycle and getting out of it feels next to impossible.
But we have the ways that will help you to get out of this bad habit cycle. We are going to learn in a further section.
Why did people fail to stop bad habits?
If I have to answer it in one sentence it would ‘ Because it excites you more’.
The human brain is the most complex structure of the human body. Understanding its functions means to have immense power to control it in the way we want.
I like to keep things simple, VTA controls the dopamine level and the Prefrontal cortex controls making a decision and planning complex cognitive behavior.
Let’s back to our question, why is it hard to stop the bad habits?
Every time the action is performed there is a release of dopamine from VTA. When dopamine is released in large quantities, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward.
The reward from bad habits leads to the release of dopamine, and your brain desires for it more.
The prefrontal cortex takes the decision of performing an action. The decision is taken by it based on the information stored in the memory about the consequences of bad habits.
But still, why we can’t resist ourselves?
It is because the prefrontal cortex becomes weak in front of the pleasures.
What all this discussion leads to?
How we can improve our decision-making ability?
The conclusion of this section is, most people fail to stop the bad habit only because they totally rely on motivation. Which is obviously going to be a failed attempt.
Also Read: How to Stop Procrastination?
Well based on my research I have collected some of the ways through which we can stop bad habits, which we are going to learn in the next section.
How can we unlearn or stop bad habits?
We have to work on two of the area to stop our bad habits.
1. Enhancing the power of prefrontal cortex
2. Break the loop of Habit formation.
• How to enhance the power of prefrontal cortex?
The following are some of the ways to work on it:
1. Increase your capacity for pressure.
• Learn to manage stress. Studies says that, being under the high level of stress means that out body’s energy is used in acting instinctively and making decisions based on short term outcomes.
• Our prefrontal loses out the battle when high stress is involved.
2. Get more sleeping.
• Needless to say it is the easiest way to work on our brain.Getting more sleep allow your brain to manage energy in better way.
McGonigal (psychologist) says getting enough sleep makes a big difference to how efficiently our prefrontal cortex works:
• Sleep deprivation (even just getting less than six hours a night) is a kind of chronic stress that impairs how the body and brain use energy.
The prefrontal cortex is especially hard hit and it loses control over the regions of the brain that create cravings and the stress response
• Mediation has also been result in improve will power, attention, stress management and self-awareness.
• We can start as little as from 5 to 10 minutes.
Learn: How to do Meditation?
4. Better exercise and nutrition.
• It the most effective way to improve the will power.
Both relaxing, mindful exercise like yoga and intense physical training can provide these benefits, though McGonigal points out that we’re not sure why this works yet.
• As I mentioned earlier, what you feed your body affects how much energy the prefrontal cortex has to work with. This is why nutrition is so important.
• Something as simple as eating a more plant-based, less-processed diet makes energy more available to the brain and can improve every aspect of willpower.
We have to work on our brains to get mentally fit. We do physical exercise to make our muscles stronger. In our brain get a boost by regular mental exercises.
• To break the habit loop.(Inversion of 4 Law)
We can do it by simply working on the 4 stages.
1.) Cue: To make cue invisible.
Example: A single notification distract us and we end up spending our time social media.
We can simply put our mobile on silent or keep the phone away from work table.
2.) Craving: Make it unattractive.
Making our self aware about the negative result before taking response.
Example: Let’s say you are a smoker, so before making contact with it say words which make it unattractive like ‘ smoking is going to destroy my health, it will weaken my lungs, so is it really worth to smoke?’
Use this simple technique you would win the battle for sure.
Your prefrontal cortex alone can’t beat your subconscious mind, but if it get teams up with your conscious mind there will not way to lose the battle.
3) Response: Make it difficult.
Example: If you use social media a lot you use restriction features. Which will restrict you to take the response if time reaches more than the set limit. This will make you difficult to take action.
Discover some innovative ways through which you can make your bad habit difficult.
4) Punish your self.
Give a strict punishment to yourself every time you repeat your bad habit.
Example: If you have a bad habit of getting late early in the morning. You can punish yourself by not using the cell phone throughout the day.
Punishment should be strict, to make it more officially make contract with your self, write down all law and order if you disobey it how you going to punish yourself.
You can take the signature of yours and someone whom you know can help you with it.
With this we end up with understanding all strategies that will work for every serious person whose committed to change their bad habits.
Now it’s your turn to take the serious action on all strategies that we have discussed today.
After reading the summary section, spend at least 1-2 hours to analyze yourself and how you can implement all strategies. To get the fruitful result of the time you invested to read this blog.
Also read: How to Reprogram your Subconscious mind?
• Understanding the 4 stages of habit formation.
• People fail to stop bad habits because they rely on motivation whereas you should exercise your prefrontal cortex to take the decisions.
Meditation, adequate sleep, better nutrients, stress management.
• How to break the habit formation loop.
1. Make it invisible.
2. Make unattractive.
3. Make it difficult.
4. Punish your self.
Not sleeping enough. Another bad habit by omission, getting too little sleep can have serious health effects. Research has shown that chronic sleep deprivation increases your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack and stroke.
1. Lack of awareness or acceptance.
Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.
2. Underlying Psychological Conditions
Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to break bad habits.
3. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good
One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.
Omkar, is a Digital Marketer | Self-taught Programmer