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Making and Breaking Habbits

Making and Breaking Habits: Field guide to making new habits.

This article is adapted from Huberman (2022). You can read the original article here:

Understanding Your Habits:

There are several parts to our habits, but they can be broken down into three steps to make them easier to manage:

  1. Identify your habits: Write down everything you do in a day, like brushing your teeth or making breakfast. This helps you see how you spend your time.

  2. Analyze unwanted habits: If there’s a habit you want to change, look at what happens before and after it. Ask the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why to find out what triggers it.

  3. Track your habits: Keeping track of your habits can help you change them.

The 4 Steps of Habits:

Habits are generally based on the principles of classical and operant conditioning. These principles are used to develop the urge to do something, usually in response to one of those five W’s, and generally lead to some type of reward. The steps can be broken down into:

  1. Cue: Something triggers the habit.

  2. Craving: You want to do the habit.

  3. Response: You do the habit.

  4. Reward: You feel good after doing the habit.

Best Times for New Habits:

According to Huberman (2022), it is best to try starting new habits 30 minutes after waking up, three hours after waking up, or 11 hours after waking up. These are times when you’re most motivated and face the least disconnect between what you want to do, and what you need to do. A good way to develop habits is to schedule them accordingly, for example, by dividing your day into three phases:

  1. Morning (0-8 hours after waking): You’re more active and focused. Do harder tasks.

  2. Midday (9-15 hours after waking): You’re more relaxed. Do easier tasks.

  3. Evening (16-24 hours after waking): Focus on rest and sleep.

Creating Good Habits:

We all know it's hard to develop habits, but if there is something you aren’t currently doing that you want to be, you can follow these steps, and, if you want to break a bad habit, you can do the opposite of these suggestions:

  1. Make it obvious: Put reminders where you can see them.

  2. Make it attractive: Choose something you enjoy.

  3. Make it easy: Prepare ahead so it’s not hard to do.

  4. Make it satisfying: Make sure you feel good after doing it.

Tips to keeping your habits:

  1. Do Something Positive: If you slip up and do the habit you’re trying to break, do something positive right after. It may seem counterintuitive, but this can help rewire your brain.

  2. Never Miss Twice: Don’t let one mistake ruin your whole day. Break your day into quarters and don’t let a mistake affect more than one quarter.

  3. Start Small: Before you worry about doing a habit perfectly, just start doing it. This helps you figure out the logistics and makes it less likely you’ll give up. Once the habit is established, then you can improve it.

  4. The Two Minute Rule: Start with just two minutes. If you want to read more, start by reading one page. If you want to do yoga, start by setting up your yoga mat. This helps you figure out the logistics of your habit.

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