What Are Habits and How Can They Work FOR You?

Are you aware of how many habits you actually have? Probably not, because a habit is something that is performed in your subconscious. It is only when you are trying to form a new habit or break an old, unproductive habit that you become aware of your actions.

Habits can be both good and bad – it’s all in how you see their effect on your life.  If the effect is positive – like with an exercise habit – you’ll see the effects in greater physical fitness, stronger muscles, and greater aerobic capacity.

If the habit has a negative effect – like with smoking – you’ll see the effects in diminished lung capacity, a lighter wallet, and the increasing need to go outside to indulge, as many public buildings no longer allow smoking inside.

Some of the habits you include  your daily routine could include:

  • Getting dressed
  • Taking a shower
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Combing and styling your hair
  • Preparing coffee or breakfast
  • Making your bed after getting dressed…and the list goes on

You don’t even have to think about many of these actions or occurrences because your mind has become accustomed to your routine.

Can you imagine the effort needed to actively remember how to do each step of each one of those chores? You would end up completely exhausted at the beginning of every day, and might find it difficult to do anything else!

Problems arise when you are trying to form a new, positive habit. You may want to lose 10 pounds, learn a new routine for your aerobic dance class, or you wish that your kitchen counters would be less cluttered. All of these take time and effort to change.

To keep those kitchen counters clear, you would need to form a  new habit of finding homes for all of the items that currently sit on the counter. This might include filing your bills or getting the kids to not leave their homework on the counter. It might mean having everyone put their dishes into the dishwasher each night instead of dumping them onto the counters.

These are all small individual things, but you need to set up a regular and consistent routine so you can keep your kitchen clean and tidy. Research indicates that it takes approximately 3 to 4 weeks to form a good habit. This means for one month you need to put extra effort into performing these tasks. After this time the effort will seem like less, just because your mind has becoming accustomed to your new actions.

If you are trying to form a good habit it can be extremely helpful to have reminders around your home to reinforce the behaviors you want. For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds to fit into a new bathing suit, you could leave the suit out where it acts as a visual reminder. Another idea is to write yourself notes and leave them around your home. Perhaps on the refridgerator door, so when you feel like snacking, you are reminded of why you are trying to lose weight.  Adding a list of healthy snacks and meal choices might also help to redirect you toward the new habit of eating healthier and not feeling deprived.

If exercising is your new habit, remind yourself during the day that when you get home you are going to enjoy a walk, or listen to music that you’ve heard in that new aerobics class that reminds you of the fun and positive energy you feel there.

View the new task as something enjoyable, not something that has to be done. This way you will look forward to getting home and walking after dinner, or traveling to that class where you’ll see other enthusiastic people like yourself that are all striving for the goal of a healthier, stronger body.

Remember that the more consistently you repeat this process, the quicker the new, positive habit will form, and the greater the benefit you will receive.