Have you ever pulled your car into the driveway without any real recollection of driving home from work? This auto-pilot feature is a habit-driven process. And while sometimes habits can be very useful, they can also be detrimental to our health journey.
Want to find out how you form bad habits so that you can break them or not form them to begin with? Keep reading!
Let's start with a simple distinction between goal-driven and habit-driven behavior.
I am sitting at my desk in the late afternoon and I want a piece of candy. I stand up, walk downstairs, locate the candy, eat it, and walk back upstairs. I had a goal (get candy) and I took several actions to make that goal a reality.
However, let's say I performed this goal-driven behavior every weekday for a month. All of a sudden, I'm unwrapping a Hershey's kiss at 3pm and wondering how did I get here, I wasn't even thinking about candy. This is when the goal-driven becomes the habit-driven.
Biologically speaking, this goal-driven to habit-driven transformation is advantageous. We spend less brainpower on the things we do on a very regular basis making us more efficient. The neural pathways allow us to perform tasks without much effort or thinking.
So the brain experiences a cue or trigger (I'm at my desk and it's late afternoon) and it starts a sequence of actions. Sure, I have control over my own body's motion, but it becomes harder and harder to act against the existing pattern - which is why bad habits are hard to break.
You can break bad habits, but it takes work. The first thing you can do is to revert back to goal-driven actions. Bring consciousness to your bad habits.
Am I getting more food because I'm hungry or because that's what I typically do when I finish my plate?
Do I need to sit on the couch watching TV on Saturday morning or could I do a different activity?
Ask yourself why you do the things you do and whether you can find a motivation (goal) behind it or not. Only then can you start weeding out the habit-driven behaviors you can go without.
An even more advanced version of this technique is to start a better, healthier goal-driven behavior that you want to become a habit-driven behavior.
What about trying to prevent bad habits from forming?
Sometimes you don't discover a bad habit until it's too late. But if you find yourself acting in a goal-driven way towards a bad habit for a few days in a row, there's hope! Replace the goal-driven bad behavior with a good one or choose not to engage in the bad goal-driven behavior. Say it out loud if you have to - "I will not go downstairs and eat candy."
Try out these new techniques and see for yourself! Bring your bad habit-driven behavior into conciousness and replace it or say goodbye to it for good!
Need help identifying and replacing bad habits for good ones? Health coaching can help! Book a free session with me and learn tangible solutions for better habits.