The formation and utilisation of habits

Jogging Dundalk.jpg

The human brain is a very powerful device and some say it is the most complicated structure in the entire universe (that we know of..).

Our brain has evolved to make decision making easy for us.

It does this with a very complicated pattern recognition system.

Some say that up 70% of our actions every day are made up of things called habits. Our brains can make decisions for us and choose how we feel, think and behave based off this habit pathway.

This can be very useful but is not always a good thing!

Our brains cannot differentiate between good and bad habits, all it cares about is getting the dopamine spike, that comes with particular behaviours.

The dopamine reward system works in 3 steps. 

  • The first is a Cue, this is the start of a habit,
  • The next step is the routine which is the action set in motion by the cue in order to get the stimulus which will lead to your last phase of a habit
  • That is the all important reward.

So.. It is Cue, Routine and Reward.

Take eating junk food for example.

Cue.. Feeling of hunger.

Routine..Going into the kitchen and eating a chocolate bar (Or 3).

Reward.. The feel good sensation of eating chocolate.

This is a very powerful system which makes it very difficult to resist. Our brains do it without thinking.

This is why getting off the couch and going for a run is so difficult.

You have no previous experience of getting out and going for a run, or how it feels to own that sense of accomplishment. You don't have a feel good reward for your brain to crave and no Cue or Routine set in place.

It is said that it is almost impossible to just ignore and to just stop doing any given habit but it must be modified and replaced and in order to start new habits you should build on top of old ones.

This can be done by modifying either the Routine or the Reward. 

For example. If you want to start running it would be a good idea to incorporate it into your already ingrained morning/evening routine and build on top of that, or if you don't have any kind of routine in place then set up a cue such as placing your running shoes waiting at the door. When your eyes see the shoes, it acts as a trigger for your brain to begin to crave the dopamine reward response that accomplishing a run brings. 

And so, we have a new routine!