Habits are essential to our lives. They support us in everyday life in decision-making. 30 to 60 percent of our day is determined by learned habits - and they are not always conducive. Smoking, greasy food and procrastination at work are just some of the common bad habits. To take good intentions and establish new habits does not always have to be New Year. On the contrary: Who wants to keep the psyche fit and do something for his mental health, should never stop working on himself. There are techniques to develop new habits. With that, you finally manage to stick with your good intentions. Which approach does science consider promising? And which apps and helpers can support you?
The bad news first: Developing a new habit usually does not work overnight. On average, you need 21, 66, or up to 254 days until a new behavior is permanently practiced. That's more than two months and they can be quite long. For habits are practices that we practice regularly without thinking about - such a thing Definition of the researcher bas planking.
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The emphasis here is probably on the regularity. Practice masters the practice of new rituals - and has done so in the past when learning harmful codes of conduct. Put simply, the particular difficulty is that anything our brain once stored in long-term memory is hard to erase. It is easier to add something new, as various studies have shown. Approaches, to counter bad habits, set right here.
The bad habits: a whim of nature?
Having habits makes sense first of all. Thanks to these well-practiced procedures, the brain does not have to brood every time they move their hands and think about what to do. Our psyche has learned that a particular action is beneficial in a given situation and therefore automatically acts in similar contexts.
This saves energy and makes the brain more efficient. But at the same time it ensures that learned behaviors are deeply rooted in your psyche. So deep that they can hardly be removed. As already mentioned in the beginning, it is easier, according to researchers, to learn new habits than to discard old behavior.
But please do not put your head in the sand right now! If you want to bring new rituals into your life because you think they will do you good, it is still possible. Because consider: Already from the first day you practice the new habit already! From now on, only continuity is important. Are only 65 days left - and are the new rituals part of the personality? It's not that easy. Because habits usually precede a thinking process that leads to new behavior through insight and certain motivations. On the other hand, if you want to change your behavior at will, without this previous insight, the path to success is much more difficult. But it is feasible!
Develop new habits: That's how science works
According to Bas Verplanken and Wendy Wood of the University of Bath, new behaviors can be learned and established by changing circumstances to such an extent that the old habits are immediately disrupted by changes in the environment. Sounds not bad. Anyone who smokes a cigarette on the way to work, therefore, would just need another way to go and would have already created the basic prerequisite to get rid of the harmful habit. That's pretty rough in the right direction. Quite simply, changing rituals is not.
Everyday habits, often in particular media consumption, Health with nutrition and sports and locomotion can be particularly well influenced, according to Verplanken and Wood, when the new behavior is tailored to the strength of habit. So if you want to intervene and eat more salad in the future instead of fast food or more often want to put away the phone, should note that his actions should be tailored from the outset to the habit strength of the target behavior. If I hate salad and eat salads, I have to make more effort than pretending to eat only cashews instead of peanuts. The discrepancy between the desired goal and the effort can be so great that from a certain point outside help could be needed.
The scientists therefore recommend using external help, especially in the case of major changes such as cessation of smoking. This can be both encouraging information materials and self-help programs that have a motivating effect on the participants. If such concepts - like me - put you off in advance, you can of course use other helpers described in the last section of this article.
Changing habits is hard - until it's easy!
Habits are strongly location dependent, according to the researchers. For example, someone could take something unhealthy out of the fridge every time he goes to the kitchen. Certainly it is unthinkable to change the habit of not going to the kitchen anymore. But it would be a start, for example, to break his habits, to go to the kitchen more seldom and more consciously. After all, according to another scientific study, 55 percent of such acts are not a habit. For example, driving a car to work is a habit. Traveling on holiday, on the other hand, is shaped by reflection and decision-making - not a rule. This opens up the opportunity to relearn. For example, from "I go to the kitchen and take something unhealthy" from the fridge, the action "I go to the kitchen and take an apple" can be.
But that's just one side of the coin. Even if the habit-changer prefers to take an apple when going to the kitchen rather than the unhealthy snack from the fridge, the behavior is far from changed. As long as the environmental influences do not change, that is: there is a delicious, unhealthy piece of chocolate in the fridge, the likelihood is that sooner or later the human being reaches for the chocolate again.
And that is the quintessence of Bas Verplanken's and Wendy Wood's scientific study: "When old calls for everyday activities change, habits are disturbed and people are potentially encouraged to think about their actions and use their intentions as a guide to making new decisions ", So the authors.
The moment I, for example on vacation in a far away country reading an article about putting off harmful habits, I first come up with the idea of changing my habits. I'm torn from the old pattern, so to speak. So I plan to eat less chocolate and more apples. But how do I keep this going? By changing the context! I stop buying chocolate and instead put more fruit and vegetables in the cart. But that's not enough. I change the supermarket and choose one that puts more emphasis on fruits and vegetables and has little chocolate on offer. I change my usual environment in the kitchen. Maybe I'll change the fridge or remove anything I associate with the positive taste of the chocolate. I put the apples at hand - and take one regularly as well. I regularly see how healthy apples are and that they are really delicious as well.
The conclusion is clear: a change in habits has to be integrated into a broad context. Particularly important is the spatial aspect. To effectively change habits, relocation and outside support are particularly helpful. Only then the new actions fall on fertile ground and can take root. And of course there are also a few little helpers, such as apps that help with the implementation!
Page 2: So I successfully changed my habits - and in others I failed