The psychology of habit formation is what enables us to form new habits and break old ones. You can entirely control what you become accustomed to in life if you comprehend this psychology. Our success is determined by our behaviors. Nonetheless, they appear to be beyond our control. It’s not easy to break bad habits or develop new ones, whether you’re talking about habit creation or breaking bad behaviors.
How Habits are Formed
People form a variety of habits as they traverse the environment, whether or not they are aware of them. People can get their wants met more effectively in everyday life once they understand and exploit the reflex nature of these behaviors.
However, because habits become deeply embedded in our minds, it can be tough to break them, even if they cause more issues than they solve. Understanding how habits form in the first place might help you dismantle and replace them. Habits can be damaging or beneficial to one’s health. It’s a habit to grab for a cigarette—or any drug connected with specific cues—as soon as you wake up. Picking up a pair of running shoes when you arrive home every day, or fastening your seatbelt without thinking about it, are also examples.
What causes a habit?
Habits aren’t choices you make consciously. They’re pre-programmed responses. It is not a habit to decide to go to the gym today, but it is a habit to go without thinking about it.
Habits are difficult to categorize as “good” or “bad.” You may feel good about a lot of harmful habits. It’s more realistic to say that bad habits impede you from becoming who you want to be, whilst good habits will assist you in becoming who you want to be.
Learning and repetition help form habits. A person is said to acquire a habit by associating particular cues with particular behavioral reactions. These cues and their consequent habits help fulfill a goal, such as driving to a destination or satisfying an appetite. These cues are likely to stimulate thoughts about the behavior, as well as the conduct itself, over time.
#1 Know the history of the habit
What was the event that caused you spiral through the downward slope of compulsive bad habits? in the study of the psychology of bad habits, it is known amongst researchers that bad habits -although tricky- could often result due to emotional distress.
Ironically, most often, Bad habits often have a relieving reward or promise an exciting reward. For example, John Doe suffers from depression, he doesn’t like being in his usual depressed mode so he opts to find a reliever, something that would help him escape the harsh reality he lives in every day. Alcohol and narcotics are eligible candidates, He may also result in eating foods that provide a lot of dopamine release which he would resort to more often than he would hope.
Before John can deliver himself from the bondage of his bad habits, he must identify the history of the habit. The psychological trick to hack the habit here is not unrelated to the old saying “You can’t defeat an enemy you don’t know”. Knowing why you developed the habit can help you identify the cues, triggers, and responses of the underlying behavior.
#2 Identify the Trigger
Habits don’t just start randomly, something has to happen before the automated response can kick in. You must be in a certain physiological condition, state of mind, or environment which has become hard-wired into your behavioral network for the habit to kick in. These factors are what are referred to as triggers or cues.
What is a trigger
The trigger is the event that stimulates your body and mind to behave in a precise way. we could say it is the key that “boots” a habit. A trigger could be of different kinds or could come in different forms;
- Location or place
- emotional state
- Last action
For example, the smell of coffee drifting from the break room tempts you to go make yourself a cup. This trigger could be your most recent action, such as walking past and smelling the coffee, or it could be your current position. After all, you wouldn’t have smelled the coffee if you weren’t standing outside the break room.
Another common Habit routine would be pornography and masturbation. The sight of erotic scenes in the pornographic content triggers you to become aroused which in turn causes you to masturbate. The trigger could be the visuals or the sounds coming from the content that triggers the masturbating behavior.
How to Use the trigger as a psychology hack
Habits don’t form immediately, they take time and some number of repetitions under the same circumstances. in other words, you undoubtedly made a conscious decision to pursue that action the first few times you performed it, because of the reaction (reward) to your actions the habitual actions frequently happen effortlessly.
Knowing the trigger of your habit is an important hack to leveraging the psychology of the habit. For example, if you want to break away from porn addiction, and have identified the trigger to be explicit pictures, then you can hack your psychology by avoiding websites, magazines, and other media content that would cause your habit to be triggered.
Avoiding the triggers themselves is an important hack you should take to combat any habit. You’ll need some time to figure out the precise triggers. Keep an eye on the situations where you’re prone to engaging in the negative habit. Then, either take steps to control these triggers or eliminate the potential of these cues from your routine. This will assist you in avoiding the creation of undesirable habits.
#3 Identify why you must Quit
Breaking a bad habit can be difficult, especially when you haven’t ingrained the idea of breaking the habit into your “psychology”. After identifying the trigger, you must find out whether the habit is of any cost to you and your family. No one wants to quit a habit that confers positive rewards concerning lifestyle and health, however, it would become paramount that you break the vicious cycle of a habit when you observe that the habit has negative lifestyle implications and effects on your health.
- Is the habit affecting your work
- Do you feel guilty after engaging in the habit?
- Does the Habit pose any medical or physical threat to you and your loved ones?
- Could the habit be stealing your time?
There are many questions you would need to ask yourself regarding the consequences of the habit. Some habits may not be a threat in any way but you may feel powerless against them. You may want to be in control of your life and being. Other times the habit may be of no cost to you and needn’t cause you to worry. We all have habits.
#4 Set clearly defined goals
After you covered the steps mentioned above in our list of psychology hacks to break any habit, you now need to progress to the next step. Set a plan which would outline the goals you are willing to achieve at the end of a certain period. You can’t break a habit that has formed over years in two weeks. Be realistic. Set realistic goals, and devise doable activities that you can take to break the bad habit.
Don’t give up on your goals
Setting goals and achieving them is not the same thing. How frequently do you begin a project and never complete it? People create goals all the time, but only a small percentage of them get followed through on.
There are a variety of reasons why people fail to achieve their goals. You can be lacking in motivation. You can come into a stumbling block or an impediment. Alternatively, you may get dissatisfied with your development.
You can achieve your objectives. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. If you’re weary of failing at dieting, working out, receiving promotions, or anything else in life, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Make certain you’ve adequately prepared for the problems you’ll confront.
You must first set your goals before you can achieve them. This is the area where the majority of people fall short. You may not have properly planned out your approach to achieving your objectives or given the process enough thought. You can improve your chances of success by knowing how to set goals.
#5 Seek for help from friends and family
Family and friends, a group of people also trying to change their behaviors can be of tremendous resource when it comes to breaking a bad habit.
Surrounding yourself with family and friends may be of trivial importance if you struggle to conquer the habit on your own. You can hack social psychology by obtaining moral support, strength, and motivation from your family. Also, if the family is contributing to the development and trigger of the habit, then it would require a long heart-to-heart talk at the dinner table.
Another important point to mention would be to ensure you surround yourself with positive people, people who would not hinder your progress and discourage you from achieving your laid-out goals.
Move with people with Positive vibes
Having nice company is the finest conscious technique to assist your mind to get acclimated to things unconsciously. Your habits will be heavily influenced by the people you associate with. This is where the majority of your positive habits are formed.
Stay in the company of people who have the habits you want to emulate. When you’re losing motivation and hope, these folks will motivate you to keep fighting for a better self. A favorable environment will naturally improve your mind, allowing you to put in more effort in the right direction and create beneficial habits.
#6 Use Habit tracking apps and reminders
While you set up your goals and make the decision to carry out your plan, you’d need to keep track of your progress. That’s where Habit applications and reminders come to play. Some behaviors, such as smoking, might be harmful to your health. Other behaviors, such as procrastination, can, on the other hand, have a detrimental impact on your work and career.
As a result, it’s critical to reclaim control of your life. It can be difficult to do this because most habits are so established in people’s lives that they do it without even thinking about it.
some apps that you can use are;
- Momentum Habit Tracker
- Productive Habit Tracker
Fortunately, there are a plethora of free habit tracking apps available to assist you in setting goals, keeping track of your routines, and breaking undesirable habits.
The greatest habit tracker website or app can aid you in your quest to stay on track with your objectives. It can also assist you in visualizing and being aware of your development.
#7 Exchange Bad Habit with a Good one
All of your current behaviors, whether good or negative, are present in your life for a reason. These activities benefit you in some ways, even if they are harmful to you in other ways.
When it comes to smoking or drugs, the benefit is sometimes biological. It can be emotional at times, such as when you stay in a toxic relationship. And, in many circumstances, your undesirable behavior is merely a stress-reduction strategy. Biting your nails, twisting your hair, stomping your foot, or locking your jaw are just a few examples.
The Three R’s
Everyone has terrible habits they want to overcome; instead of cursing yourself for being powerless to do so, utilize the psychology hack of bad habit formation to your advantage.
Habits, whether good or negative, follow a standard three-step process. This can be summarised as the three Rs:
By breaking down the cycle of poor behavior, you may figure out what sets it off and start working on what needs to change. You may create a pattern for new, better habits this way.
#8 Change environment
The environment can greatly influence your motivation to break a bad habit or create a replace a good habit. There is a great relationship between the cue of a habit and the environment.
Bearing this in mind, we can exploit the psychology of the behavior to either break the bad habit loop or replace it with another habit. Changing your setting is more crucial than relying on willpower because most habit cues are contextual.
How the environment may trigger the Habit loop
Let’s say a man named “John” struggles with a drinking habit. The last place he would want to go would be a bar, drinking party or a nightclub. The scent of smoking, the availability of cigarettes, booze, and pals who smoke are a lethal combination when he walks into a pub. His senses would pick up the cues and would act upon them.
If he lacks the determination and willpower to overcome the “temptation”, John would relapse. He would be subjected to the compulsive act of drinking or going back to his bad habit which he has struggled for so long to prevent. That’s why relocating or taking a vacation might help you break harmful behaviors.
#9 Set up a reward program for yourself
Ironically, the purpose of engaging in a bad habit is the reward that the habit confers. psychologists -as early as B. F. Skinner– have used rewards to instil new habits in their test subjects. Human behaviour often follows the same paradigm- Stimulus-Response-Reward. James Clear is renowned for his book, Atomic Habits, in his book explains that the science of habits takes four stages:
- the cue
- the craving
- the response, and
- the reward
James summarises the psychology of habit formation, saying that whether it is a good or bad habit, it follows the same pattern.
Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes: (1) they satisfy us and (2) they teach us.- James Clear
Having this at the back of your mind, you can break the habits cycle by also implementing the same strategy in your “new habit routine”.
How to form Rewards to break bad habits?
Developing a reward program can be tricky because different habits have different psychology concerning cues, triggers, and responses. Would depend on the kind of bad habit you want to break.
Rewards for building a fitness habit
Engaging in exercises can be tedious and energy-consuming, it’s a bit tricky if you’re looking to get a reward for this habit. For many, seeing sweat run down their chin is the reward of exercising. You may be tempted to reward yourself with food, but that defeats the purpose of the exercise doesn’t it?
Reward yourself with something that relates to your gymnastic activities. Get a better mat, get exercise shoes, how about some good headphones? As I said, this could be tricky so you’d have to put in the work. Make sure to not reward yourself with something that defeats the purpose of your exercise. Other habits you may consider developing special rewards for are :
- Healthy Eating Habit
- Productivity habit
- Money habits
- Reading habits, etc.
Your reward must reinforce your new habit and not the bad one. that’s the trick behind exploiting the psychology of habits to get rid of a bad one. Each time you abstain from your bad habit for a certain period, you should make it a habit of rewarding yourself. Let your subconscious know that you’ve worked hard and this is your reward.
Whilst you make sure to reward yourself for accomplishments, also do well to starve your olf habits of its reward. Do not let the bad habit find loopholes in your strategy or it would hijack your plan and then you’re back to the beginning all over again.
#10 Be aware of your Thoughts and Actions
There is a direct link between how you feel when you perform an action and your likelihood of repeating it in the future.
It’s not magic that occurs in your brain when you receive positive reinforcement; it’s a neurochemical reaction. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger in the brain) that controls the brain’s “reward system” and helps us remember what behavior made us feel good so we may repeat it, is released in response to positive feelings. The brain registers the cause-and-effect link with the help of dopamine, which leads to future expectations.
BJ Fogg, Ph.D., founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, argues that Emotions are
In my own research, I found that habits can form very quickly, often in just a few days, as long as people have a strong positive emotion connected to the new behavior.
This is in line with what many philosophers have said in the past have written. For example, philosopher James Allen once said: “As a man thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.” This goes without saying that if you intend to change the habit, you must first change your thoughts.
Can thoughts influence your Habits?
Thoughts have no power in and of themselves; it is only when we actively engage our attention in them that they become real. When we interact with certain thoughts, we begin to feel the feelings that these thoughts have triggered—we enter a new emotional state, which determines how we act.
If you routinely engage with the concept that you’re a failure and give it more attention, you’ll begin to feel useless, disheartened, and possibly sad. How you think and feel has a direct impact on how your body reacts, and all three factors influence how you act and what you do.
If you know when to exploit the psychology of habit formation, you would be able to formulate a more effective strategy, and tricks to conquer your bad habits. Don’t give up, learn to find motivation in the little things of the world, and also remember that motivation itself isn’t enough to get rid of your bad habits.