How to create good habits and get rid of bad habits: the ultimate instruction

Today we will deal with habits: we will find out why we need them, where they come from, why it is so difficult to acquire good habits and get rid of bad ones.

Habits -

any actions

that we perform "on the machine "without thinking or making an effort. There is evidence that out of habit we select


, make


, eat

bad snacks

instead of healthy vegetables,

we go in for exercise30,

we follow the recommendations of the doctor


for my hands


we brush our teeth.

There is nothing surprising in the fact that habits have become the second nature of humanity. From the point of view of evolution, the ability to develop habits is an excellent technical solution that allows you to maintain the correct behavior without unnecessary efforts.

For example, the habit of choosing berries by default, which last time turned out to be tasty and not poisonous, could save our cave ancestors life and health.

However, habits are a double-edged weapon. Indeed, to act out of habit, motivation is not needed. To run the program, it is enough to be in the circumstances in which this very habit has formed.

It's great when an athlete who comes to the gym immediately has a desire to stand on the treadmill.

But if the person who quit smoking, found himself in the usual company of smokers, “shoots” a cigarette from a friend, there is little good in that.

Habit is the very thing that helps to connect good intentions and real behavior. It depends solely on our habits whether we will lead a healthy lifestyle or again find ourselves on the couch in the company of chips and a laptop.

How to create good habits and get rid of bad habits: the ultimate instruction

Photo: shutterstock. com

From the point of view of physiology , habits - ready-made neural connections that automatically turn on when a person falls into certain circumstances.

These neural connections are stored in the striatum - the part of the brain that is responsible for creating

sustainable patterns of behavior

, and

for making decisions


To make it easier to understand how habits get into the brain and how it threatens us, let's see how the habit of brushing our teeth arises.

Most of us had such “irritant” parents, hinting how important it is to brush your teeth. So a new goal appeared in life - to learn how to brush teeth. After all, no one wants dad and mom to get upset or curse.

Now, when we were in the bathroom, we knew it was time to brush our teeth. To do this, you need to pack up your courage, take a brush, squeeze a paste on it, turn on the water - in general, exert your will and do a bunch of different actions, without which it won’t be done.

How to create good habits and get rid of bad habits: the ultimate instruction

Photo: shutterstock. com

The next day we again they came to the bathroom and brushed their teeth again - at the same time, in the same place, in the same way. Over time, this was made easier and simpler for us, until we stopped noticing how the process was going.

Done: brushing your teeth has become a habit.

If you compare how our brain worked in the second and at the end of the third stage, it will be noticeable how much everything has changed. Previously, the brain performed a bunch of small, almost unrelated tasks. Now, small tasks have turned into one action that is easy to start and execute, without requiring any volitional efforts on our part.

Now let's see what follows from this.

  1. Bye habit just forming, intervening in it is just . While we were just learning to brush our teeth, we wondered how much paste to squeeze onto a brush. After the habit formed, we generally stopped thinking about it.
  2. It’s very difficult to change an existing habit . You probably noticed this when the houses turned off hot water.

    It seems you know that there is no water, but your hands still reach for the hot tap.

  3. Getting rid of a habit is difficult . A ready-made habit is a very real group of neurons in the brain that will not disappear simply because we suddenly wanted to. Even if they block the water for a month in the house, our habit of brushing our teeth is most likely not going anywhere.

How to create good habits and get rid of bad habits: the ultimate instruction

Photo: shutterstock.


Let's be honest: soon In total, to break the bad habit

will fail

. We remember that a habit is a very real part of the brain that is set up to “automatically trigger”. It’s much easier to give your old habit a new life. For example, instead of losing the habit of eating french fries, you need to replace the habit of eating potatoes with the habit of eating apples.

At the same time, creating a new habit is usually much easier than overcoming the old one.

To acquire a new good habit, you need to go through 5 steps:

  1. Choose a target . Let it be mandatory half-hour walks in the morning.
  2. Come up with a simple daily action to help you reach your goal. For example, you can get up half an hour earlier every morning.
  3. Plan when and where you will perform the selected action .

    If you have free time, then instead of going to work by bus, you can walk the distance to work.

  4. Perform an action every time when you are in the right place at the right time. In our case, for example, you can’t spend your time on social networks. We decided to walk - so we must walk.
  5. Be patient .

    It takes time to get the habit of walking to work on foot. You should not expect that the habit of walking appears in just a couple of days or weeks.

None. The myth that it takes only three weeks to form a habit appeared after the plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz published his book


in 1960. The doctor noticed that on average his patients got used to a new face in 21 days, and the whole scientific world took his word for it - until in 2009, English researchers decided to test this belief experimentally.

96 people participated in the experiment. Each participant chose a good habit that he wanted to form: for example, drink a bottle of water at lunch or run 15 minutes before eating. The experiment lasted 12 weeks.

It turned out that in order to form a habit, on average, it takes more than two months, or rather, 66 days . At the same time, only 18 days were enough for some participants in the experiment to form a habit; for others, it took 254 days.

In general, it is better not to expect that a useful habit will form in three weeks, rather it will be a period of two to eight months - that is how much time most people “sprout” new nervous connections in the striatum.

How to create good habits and get rid of bad habits: the ultimate instruction

Photo: shutterstock. com

Try to adjust the tactics. Here's what

can be done


Choose a more realistic goal . Simple and understandable actions do not require much time and therefore they quickly become familiar.

In addition, even small changes in lifestyle are more beneficial than their absence.

In our example, if you don’t have the strength to get to work on foot, you can set yourself the goal of going through a couple of stops, and then getting on the bus.

Measure successes . To almost all people forming a new habit, it seems that it arises too slowly. Maybe you should start a checklist in which you can evaluate (in points) how easy a new habit was for you.

For example, 1 point - barely forced himself to go for a walk. And 10 points - I didn’t notice how the distance went to work, because at that time I was talking with a colleague on the phone.

Do not scold or punish yourself if it does not add to the habit. We remember that habit is a bunch of new neurons that need time to grow. In the end, everything will work out - so the habit will not go anywhere!

  1. Habit is a very real neuron in the brain that is responsible for the automation of certain actions in certain circumstances.

  2. On average, a little more than two months is needed for a habit to form. When the habit is ready, it is much easier to replace one habit with another than to get rid of it completely.
  3. Anyone can develop good habits. The main thing is to follow the instructions, do not rush and do not scold yourself if the habit could not be developed immediately. Over time, everything will work out.



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