The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit

What’s Happening in your head?

We think that we think what we think. But the thing is that we think what we don’t think most of the time. What the fuck did I just read? I know right, let me explain. The thing with our consciousness is that we are only conscious what we are conscious of but in reality, most of the processes are happening under this cloak of consciousness. You can imagine it as same as iceberg, 99% is under water, that’s our unconscious processes, and what we see – our consciousness is only 1%.

Brains and Patterns

Why am I talking about this in an article titled “The Power of Habit”? It’s because it’s immensely important to realise this and in a similar fashion realise that most of what we do and think are repeated patterns, habits of action. This is not something we have to debate, it’s a fundamental nature of human beings. Our brain put things into patterns, cues followed by a routine with a certain reward, actually, these patterns emerged precisely because of the reward. Those rewards might be subtle and a lot of the times hidden from us. Why? Because again, it’s our unconscious mind. Do you crave some sugar treat? Is it because you ate too little or because in past few weeks, months or years you have had some treat after a lunch, after you sat on a chair in work or that it leads to you getting up, moving your body, therefore your brain getting more oxygen? Well, you don’t know that, because all of those times you get some reward and the dopamine hit from he sugar just might be something that got associated with it.

Learning

You might ask why does our brain do this? Well, it’s like learning anything new, at start it’s really hard, take for example driving a car, all the things that you have to do at the same time and you have to concentrate a lot. What about now? Exactly, we do it automatically, on autopilot. Well imagine your life the same way. You’ve learned how to walk, speak, read and write in similar fashion. This is how our brain learns, at first, a lot of neurons and pathways are active, but after a while it get’s reduced more and more. Your brain is able to use less energy for the same process, coding it with less number of neurons. Some connections disappear and other gets stronger. The synapses, neuronal connections literally get thicker, they get myelin sheets, which you can think of as fat isolant to boost it’s processing speed and effectiveness.

Thinking Patterns

It’s important to realise that the habits aren’t only what we do, but also what we think as I’ve written above. Why is it important? Well, we’ve been brought up a certain way, we think how we think and we all are biased. The other thing is that because of evolution, we are biased towards the negative. All of this together can cycle towards a not so nice state of mind and our experience with daily life. But, we can change that, we can make our daily experience more enjoyable.
Our brains have an amazing ability called neuroplasticity, it can rewire itself. 90% out of 30 000 to 50 000 thoughts a day are the same as the day before. Out patterns and habits of thinking are by themselves getting stronger. This cycle can be broken and we can realise that some of our biases are here only because of evolution and things aren’t really that bad how they look. We can unlock ourselves from the self-limiting thoughts which we created. How to do that? Well, first of all we need to recognize them, after that we can simply ask, but how do I know? Is it really true? Most of the things aren’t true, we just haven’t had a chance to show them, because they have been stopping us from doing so.

It’s important to realise that the habits aren’t only what we do, but also what we think as I’ve written above. Why is it important? Well, we’ve been brought up a certain way, we think how we think and we all are biased. The other thing… Click To Tweet

Body – Mind cycle

It goes even deeper, all these thoughts are also affecting our body. The positive in positive way and the negative in negative. The cycle continues and the body then affect our thinking. Don’t believe me? Try to put your shoulders back and sit or stand straight, try to take a few deep breaths. You might not feel differently now, because you are relaxed, but the signal to the brain is going to be – You are fine, you can chill-out now. Do this in a stressful situation and the benefits are incredible. You can stop this loop between body and mind. This is really powerful first step, apart from realising what’s actually happening and how are we reacting to a certain situation. Not only it cuts the loop between the body and the mind, but also the thinking patterns and habits in a long term.

Unravelling “Woo-Woo”

As with anything, our brain is going to have really hard time to think about this at times. Especially when it’s needed the most, such as stressful situations, but with time, it’s going to be stronger and stronger – it becomes a habit.
This is how many of the so called “woo-woo” stuff is so popular between some people. It’s because it really does help, but it’s not how it’s presented, there’s a hard work behind it. It’s basically getting rid of self-limiting thoughts and replacing with something else, that itself is beneficial, plus if the “something else” is positive – boom we have this new way of thinking that actually allows us to do things and when it becomes a habit it literally does change lives.

Cue, Routine and the Reward

Now we know how we learn new habits and how important they are. What about some more practical things that you can do? Habit has 3 components cue, routine and the reward. We know that it’s incredibly hard to erase a certain habit, but we can change the routine pretty easily. First of all, we need to identify and realise the routine that we want to get rid of. It’s important to record whenever we do the routine and what lead to it, our state of mind. This allows us to realise the habit and actually identify the cue. Now we can work with it and try to avoid the cues and change the routine. The last component is reward, I’ve already written hot it might work with for example craving something sweet. We have to experiment for identifying the reward, whatever the habit is, maybe you just need to communicate with someone or just more oxygen into the brain, therefore you have to try new things and see if they satisfy the cravings without the treat. This is a simplification of how to work with changing a habit, but don’t forget that always start with a smallest and simplest thing, because it is a work and it is only going to work if we are going to be persistent at start.

 

If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude. Click To Tweet

Colin Powell

 

It might seem like not a big deal, but the smallest change is going to go a long way. It’s going to have way more impact on your life than something extraordinary done only once. With this in mind, you can start building new habits as well. The same rules apply, go with a small change at start. Perhaps you can try drinking a glass of water right after you wake up – really simple yet powerful habit to posses.


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