Individuals are different, so are their habits, while we need to change any behavior or habit, one rule is not applicable to all. Identifying and changing the patterns of in one’s life vary from person to person. When we talk about certain habits, then we need to understand that giving up one habit does not demand same amount of energy than other. For example, giving up cigarettes is not exactly same as overcoming the habit of overeating. Similarly, changing your communication with you partner and working on it is different from prioritizing your tasks at work. What’s more, each person’s habits are driven by different cravings. When we do something results in some pleasure or reward, we find our hearts inclined to do that again. Repeating this over and over again creates a new habit. Many habits are created not by us but our circumstances and others’ contributions. However we can consciously design habits and nurture them. That’s what character building and nurturing personality is about.
Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. Habit cycle is present at the core of every habit, and it also explains that why habits exist and how they work. The habit cycle is composed of three basic steps. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode. Cues are of two types: internal or external cues. The internal cue could be any feeling such as sadness, happiness or thought. While external cue include any factor outside your body, such as time, place, person or any event, such as any celebration, birthday party or New Year etc. The second part of the habit cycle is the routine, the behavior that leads to the reward. The routine can be physical (eating a burger), cognitive (“remember for the test”), or emotional (“I always feel anxious in math class”). The third part is the reward, it could be in any form, such as having some tangible things or physical such as chocolate or favorite food, at cognitive level such as having positive thoughts or developing interest or at emotional level, such as feeling happy or relax. Reward is actual determinant of habit loop and if reward is not strong enough than habit cycle would not repeat itself and thus habit would not develop.
Rewards are powerful because they satisfying cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the cravings that drive our behaviors. Different rewards could help us to understand that which particular habit is being by which particular craving. It might take some time, but it’s worth trying for longer and better results. Be a scientist and do experiment with yourself and when you try different rewards, consider it as data collection stage which ultimately would lead to real change. Those people who drink alcohol, they keep on repeating that action not to get intoxicated instead they like the reward instead such as relief from work stress, reduction in anxiety, enhances confidence and decrease their social anxiety etc. these are stronger rewards and thus their habit loop had greater chances to repeat itself.
The habits are stored at the small region of brain, known as basal ganglia and it is situated at the base of forebrain. Scientists revealed that as the behavior become habitual, the mental activity in this part of brain started reducing. When habit emerges, brain takes less energy and thus become more efficient in doing that task, as neuropathways become more clear and automatic. This stresses that understanding how habits work-or, understanding the habit cycle-makes them easier to control. By changing the cue or the reward in a habit cycle, you can change the pattern of behavior.
Habit could not last longer, only on basis of cue and reward. Instead, there is need to trigger a routine and that routine should develop the desire to have that reward. When brain started anticipating about the reward or starting craving for reward, only then patterns started becoming automatic and thus habit last longer. That’s why, even if you’re not hungry, once you see a plate of sandwiches it’s so easy to automatically pick one up.
When we need to change any habit, an important thing to understand is the structure through which habit was developed. If we keep the cue and reward as it is and change the routine in habit cycle, we can develop a new habit. It is not an easy task to do and changing the behaviors is a difficult task to do, depending on the strength of habit. After identifying the habit loop, we have everything to develop a new habit, the reward, and the triggers and also the routine you follow, so by changing the routine you can bring a shift in your habit. To develop a good habit, you can select a trigger, initially by planning it, then adapt a behavior you want to do and then link it to some reward, that you are craving for and by repeating it, you will ultimately develop habit, which initially would take time and energy but once it developed you will keep on doing without putting much effort. We can say that, habit is put another way, a habit is a certain recipe which our brain follows, such as on having a trigger, and it follows certain routine and thus ultimately achieve reward. To re-engineer that procedure, we need to begin making choices again and that can be done by having a better plan, these plan are known to be “implementation plans” in psychology. Changing some habits is comparatively difficult than others but this is a structure which we can use and get start over again. Sometimes change takes a long time. Sometimes it requires repeated experiments and failures. Thus it is concluded that after identifying the cues, your routine and the reward you can understand how your habit operates and how you can change it.