How do you make a Habit?

(Jan-Feb) Habit infographic

Thinking about habits is great as we move through the first two months of 2013, fresh with our New Years resolutions and braving the cold weather of Winter.  I’ve read some really interesting books about various aspects of habits, and it’s good to know why habits work and how we can modify or create them.

In The End of Illness by David Agus, there is a chapter called “Timing is Everything” which describes the body’s need for habits.

“Recall what I explained earlier about the body’s need for homeostasis, which is constancy in the face of environmental fluctuations.  The whole point of regulation is to maintain the body in a relatively constant state.  Yes, it’s dynamic and changing all the time, but the body perpetually modifies itself to create the steadiness that it craves – to stay in a zone wehre it’s safe and protected from harm.” (page 240)

“To be healthy you must respect and maintain that ideal, rhythmic state.” (page 238)

“Of all the things that a body loves, predictability is one of them.  one of the biggest components of stress for our bodies is not our finances, our marriages, or the kids- it’s the regularity of schedule or lack thereof.” (page 239)

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is full of stories illustrating aspects of the habit loop.

“The MIT researchers in Chapter One discovered a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts: A cue, a routine and a reward… With time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.  The Framework: Identify the routine, experiment with rewards, isolate the cue, have a plan…. Experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories: location, time, emotional state, other people, immediately preceding action.” (Appendix)

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns is a thorough cognitive psychology book speaking to change through altering thought patterns and behavior.

“I’ll bet you still may not know for sure where motivation comes from.  What, in your opinion, comes first- motivation or action?  If you said motivation,you made an excellent, logical choice.  Unfortunately, you’re wrong.  Motivation does not come first, action does!  You have to prime the pump.  Then you will begin to get motivated, and the fluids will flow spontaneously.  Individuals who procrastinate frequently confuse motivation and action.  You foolishly wait until you feel in the mood to do something…But it is usually the other way around; action must come first, and the motivation comes later on.” (Page 125)

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is great for thinking about how you want to live and what habits you want to make to experience a presence, or flow, in much of life’s activities.

“In our studies, we found that every flow activity, whether it involved competition, chance, or any other dimension of experience, had this in common: It provided some sense of discovery, a creative feeling of transporting the person into a new reality.  It pushed the person to higher levels of performance, and led to previously undreamed-of states of consciousness.  In short, it transformed the self by making it more complex.  In this growth of the self lies the key to flow activities.” (Page 74)

“Neither boredom nor anxiety are positive experiences, so Alex will be motivated to return to the flow state…by setting himself a new and more difficult goal that matches his skills- for instance, to beat an opponent just a little more advanced than he is- Alex would be back in flow.  If Alex is anxious, the way back to flow requires that he increase his skills.” (Page 75)

“It is this dynamic feature that explains why flow activities lead to growth and discovery.  One cannot enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for long.  We grow either bored or frustrated; and then the desire to enjoy ourselves again pushes us to stretch our skills, or to discover new opportunities for using them.” (Page 75)