The Exact Moment a Habit is Made
Being able to make healthy habits is one of the cornerstones in creating a happier life. We must be able to make lasting habits in order to be productive and further ourselves on our path to success. Habits have always been a little tricky in terms of how to instill them in our lives effectively. Some say that it takes 90 days for a habit to fully take over, but this can’t be set in stone right? There isn’t some sort of loading bar or finish line that forever ingrains a habit into our psyche.
There must be something that happens within us that makes a habit, and it just usually happens around 90 days into the effort. The real question is, what actually happens at that 90 day mark? Can we make habits faster than 90 days? Can habits be formed instantaneously? To begin to think about any of this, we must know the exact moment a habit is made. Because of this, we set out to answer the question: when is the exact moment that we make a habit?
The Habit We Don’t Realize Are There
We all have habits in our lives whether we like to think so or not. Even the freest bird, no strings, no job, explorer of the wild out there has habits that they adhere to it every single day. Maybe you brush your teeth right when you wake up, or maybe you lie in bed for another 10 minutes. Maybe you check your email right when you get home, or maybe you go straight for the TV.
Our habits don’t even need to be our actions. They can be our habitual thoughts that occur at certain times or with certain triggers. You could have a habit of zoning out into space every time you see a nice view. You could have a habit of self loathing every time you go into that job you hate. Maybe you think about funny jokes every time you sit on your favorite couch.
We all have habits because it is an innate human instinct to create them. Our brains would be running on overdrive if everything we did was on a whim, exotic, or spontaneous. They give us structure so that we don’t have to spend so much brain power on doing normal things throughout the day. They structure our lives in a very digestible way that we can follow without too much effort. We all know the people who say that they hate the average, habitual day, and you might be one of them. Even they have habits all their own. They might just not notice them.
The First Step is Noticing
The first step in getting rid of a bad habit or creating a new habit is to notice the habits that are already there. This may seem straightforward, but you would be surprised at all the habits we don’t realize we play out moment by moment.
What do you do the second you get home? Next time you walk into your house, just pay attention to your actions. If you are trying to be more productive towards your personal goals, it might be counteractive to have a habit of turning on the TV and vegetating for 2 1/2 hours while TV shows stream in the background. If you are trying to eat healthy, pay attention to the grocery isles that you habitually walk down. Are you walking down the produce aisle or the packaged sweets? Are you going for water or juices and sodas?
On an internal level, it would be even more beneficial to pay attention to your feelings and attitude throughout the day. When you are feeling down, where are you? What just happened? Who was there? What did they do? What are the same answers for when you are feeling great? It is important to see the patterns in our emotional state so that we can build our lives into a more fruitful environment.
(Why we fail at making new habits)
Once we start to notice the habits that we have, it is important to know what causes them. What triggers you into performing certain habitual actions or feeling certain emotions?
They say to replace a bad habit with a good one so that when the trigger comes, you start to associate a new action with that trigger. Why doesn’t that work all the time? It’s because we don’t think about the remedy of our current habits. All the habits we have are remedies for certain triggers.
If our teeth start to feel gross and we are told we have bad breath, we cannot substitute brushing our teeth for going on a jog. While going on a jog might be a healthy habit, it is not solving the problem of our gross teeth and bad breath. When we are looking for a habit to replace a bad habit, we must choose one that has the same remedy as the old one.
If we want to replace the habit of smoking cigarettes, we have to understand what benefit of cigarettes gives us. If it gives you the benefit of relaxation and release, the habit you choose to take it over must do the same thing.
I’ve been egging you on for a while to introduce this idea. When is the moment a habit is formed?
First we must realize that creating a new habit really boils down to one thing—our decisions. In our moments of choice, we get to choose to either smoke a cigarette or meditate and drink tea. Those moments of decision are what build a habit, but they are not an indication of a fully formed habit.
To form a new and difficult habit, it might be really hard to continuously choose the new habit. Every time you are faced with the choice, it might be difficult every single time for a while. Sometimes we have to make the choice over and over again to do the better action. That is why habits are so hard to form. You have to keep choosing the good action.
When is the moment a habit is formed? When you no longer have to make the choice. A habit is formed when you just do. Of course you still have to make a decision on some conscious level, but well formed habits are chosen on a subconscious level. It is no longer a difficult or conscious choice to pick the new action. This can take 90 days, nine years, or nine minutes depending on your emotional commitment. All their has to be is absolutely no question as to what you are going to do—the new habit.
Momentum will Build
For many habits, we have been doing them for so long that we don’t have to think about them anymore. However, there are always some that we still have to make a choice on to this day. Those are usually the more difficult and worthwhile habits that truly have a great effect on our lives. The best advice I can give you on keeping those habits is to keep the momentum going.
It is always the hardest to start back up on a diet after a long week of cheating on it. It is the hardest to get back into your workflow after a long vacation. This is because we lose our momentum.
Think about driving your car on the freeway. It takes a lot of gas to get up to 70 mph, but maintaining 70 takes much less. You still have to keep your foot on the gas to stay at 70. You can’t coast on 70 without giving it a little juice, but it takes much less gas to maintain than it does to slow down and speed up all the time. Slowing down is easy and enjoyable as we don’t need to consume any vas’s doing so. However, if we want to get back up to 70, we are going to have to step on the gas a little harder now.
It is hard now, but it gets easier. You have to keep doing it, which is the hard part, but it gets easier as you do.