Creating Habits helps our Brain

A habit is an acquired behavior that, repeatedly done on a regular basis, becomes “involuntary” and we end up doing it on autopilot. Through out our life we all have developed habits that we do without even thinking anymore: sometimes we don’t even realise we are doing them, unless someone points it out. 

On a daily basis we make an incredible amount of conscious decisions: some online sources say even up to 35,000, and according to researchers at Cornell University (Wansink and Sobal, 2007), we take 226 daily decisions only about food. 

Adding even more options and choices to our daily life can easily bring us to the so-called “Decision Fatigue”. Have you ever been to a restaurant at the end of an intense working day to find yourself not even being able to decide on what to order? Especially if the menu included 10 pages of different kinds of wine and an infinite choice of amazing pizza. 

A way to avoid this fatigue is by creating routines and habits so that we do not have to think about things over and over again. And we do not have to overload our brain with even more decisions, especially decisions about small things that we can simply automatise. 

Developing habits has long-lasting effects on our lives. Those little things you do on a daily basis, are the ones that make a huge impact in the long run. Start creating more routines, so you do not have to take more decisions than needed, and your brain will thank you!

The three components of a habit

Habits can be something we do, say, think, or feel: everything can be turned into a habit. Habits can also be positive or negative. But no matter the kind of habit, they can all be defined, according to Charles Duhigg, by their three components: 

  1. The Cue: an internal or external trigger that pushes us towards a certain action  
  2. The Action: the actual habit where we take the related action which can be good or bad 
  3. The Reward: the part of the habit where our brain receives a reward and that will most likely will bring us back to our habit action 

Many habits are very easy to adopt because they give strong and clear signals to the brain, rewarding it with the neurotransmitter dopamine or with many other pleasure chemicals. Examples of such habits are for instance drinking alcohol, smoking a cigarette, or consuming drugs.  

Other habits on the other hand, especially many positive ones like exercise, healthy eating or meditation, don’t have fast and direct rewards. It’s only after long practices and trainings that we start feeling the positive effects and they start to naturally stimulate the brain in a positive way. These actions need more repetition before we start feeling the good effects. 

Knowing how a habit works, with a bit of creativity, we can start using triggers and rewards to push us for action and develop those positive habits we are struggling to implement. We could for example start to reward our workout at the gym by eating post-exercise a bit of dark chocolate or playing our favorite game after an intense 90 minutes work session. 

So if you want to start making some habits sticking, you can ask your self: 

 “How can I reward myself in a positive way that will encourage me to continue pursuing these actions?”, or “What are some triggers that I can set up in my daily life to remind me to take action?

The good brain habits

Implementing routines can help us to decrease decision fatigue. What are some good habits we can start implementing also to support our brain health? 

  • Get enough and good quality sleep: removing digital devices before bed time and keeping consistency in our sleeping time  
  • Manage stress including exercises and mindfulness in our daily routine
  • Follow the “Brain Diet” by Jim Kwik. This means including in our nutrition: avocado, blueberry, broccoli, coconut oil, eggs, green leafy veggies, salmon, turmeric, walnut, and dark chocolate.   

Have fun finding your triggers and rewards and enjoy the brain food.

First you make your habits and then your habits make you”. By John Dryden

ASK YOURSELF

  • Which things I can turn into my morning routine so I decrease the number of decisions I need to make at the beginning of the day? 
  • What are some good habits I want to start integrating into my life today?
  • What are some bad habits I want to change into good ones?

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