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Habits: You Can Change Your Life

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Habits: You Can Change Your Life

By Kozini

By Kozini

By Kozini

Emily Chang, Staff Writer

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On Dec. 31 of almost every year, I make a promise to myself. I tell myself that in the new year, I will cut out processed foods and start eating healthier. However, the morning of Jan. 1 rolls around and I find myself reaching for a bowl of cereal instead of a bowl of fruit. Why is this?

Reaching for cereal is a habit, something that I automatically reach for without really thinking. To choose to grab fruit instead would require hard conscious thinking, which is why I fail to do so almost every year. However, if we manage to harness our habits and turn them into something good, then we have the power to change our lives.

Habits are essentially activities that are performed automatically with very little conscious thought. The American Journal of Psychology defines a habit as “more or less a fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of mental experience.”  They form from different associations and triggers that lead a person to doing the same action without much thinking. Reaching for my toothbrush in its cup and opening the top drawer for my toothpaste is something I can do without thinking when it’s six in the morning and I am not even fully awake. Habits can be incredibly helpful in getting you through your morning routine on autopilot. However, what many people don’t realize is how powerful habits can be.

Our eating habits, for example, have the power to completely transform our overall health and lifestyle. One person who has a habit of eating processed foods every day, avoiding work, and never exercising is bound to have a different lifestyle than someone who eats a clean breakfast, has a productive work day, and goes to the gym. Just making that choice to start healthy habits can turn your life around, yet breaking bad habits and forming new ones can be incredibly difficult.

Why are such bad habits so easy to fall into and yet so hard to break? According to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habits”, our brains follow a “habit loop.” This is essentially a trigger and reward system. When we see something that triggers the habitual behavior, such as a fridge, the habit plays out and our brains begin to expect a reward for the behavior. This connection is remembered and the habit is continued in the future. This means it becomes incredibly easy to slip into a routine and hard to fight it when an undesired behavior occurs. As found by a study done by “Psychology Today”, 40% of the time, people are not consciously thinking about what they are doing, because our minds have been trained to fall back onto these habitual behaviors. As soon as the behavior becomes automatic, the part of our brain involved in decision-making stops responding.

However, it is possible to break bad habits. It all starts with identifying when you have a bad habit; this can be done through maintaining a habit diary. Since habits are associated with familiar surroundings and triggers, a great way to break habits is to change up the scenery through setting different schedules, routines and routes. It is also important to remember to set realistic goals and then reward yourself after achieving them. For example, the idea of cutting out coffee cold turkey sounds more painful than breaking an arm to most people, so begin by replacing a cup of coffee with a cup of green tea three out of the seven days in a week. The final step in breaking habits is to set up roadblocks to avoid encountering triggers, such as an accountability partner.

Habits, though, are not all bad. It is thanks to habit that people make their beds every morning without thinking about it. After breaking bad habits, it is good to find healthy ones to replace them with, such as a weekly spin class or a morning smoothie.

Going into the New Year, it is important that people don’t look back on the bad habits that might have been made in the past, but instead harness the power of habits to instill healthy lifestyle choices that have the power to change a person’s life.

 

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Emily Chang, Staff Writer

hi my name is chelea what's your favorite dinner food?

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Habits: You Can Change Your Life