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There are myths and truths about forming both good and bad habits. You may think it might be easier to form a bad habit than a good one, but in most cases that isn’t true. Bad and good habits are usually equally difficult to change.
For example, if you’re a smoker, you probably had to inhale a lot of cigarettes before you got the hang of it and could do it without coughing. But, you persisted and finally developed a bad and addictive habit.
To break the smoking habit and create healthy ones, you’re not only going to have to deal with the habit of smoking at certain times (such as in the morning or after a meal) and the addictiveness of the nicotine.
Habits don’t just happen. They’re formed because there’s a need, either consciously or subconsciously to achieve something, from fear or desire. Bad habits can affect relationships, your career and your health, so you need to know the difference between the scientific facts of habit forming and the myths associated with it.
How to Make and Break Habits
The psychology book, “Psycho-Cybernetics,” by Maxwell Maltz proposed that a true habit can become a valid part of your life in 21 days. The theory is based on experience and not clinical facts, but the theory has back up many times in other forums. It may not work for everyone, but it is a viable point to strive for.
A scientific fact about making or breaking habits is that if you want to change a habit, the new behavior must become automatic. To form habits that are automatic, they must be repeated many times – much like teaching a dog to “fetch.” As the dog becomes familiar with the process of throwing a stick or ball and catching it, he’ll automatically get ‘ready’ as soon as he sees you pick up the ball.
The habits we form are carved into the neural pathways of the brain and only through repetition will the carving become deeper and more embedded. It’s interesting that the carvings that make up the bad habits that you’re trying to break never completely disappear – although they do become fainter with the passing of time.
You may have quit smoking for years, but you can slip right back into that bad habit if provoked. The reasons most ‘diets’ don’t work is that the habits of eating high calorie foods is ingrained in your brain and your habits of eating. A diet must become a repetitive lifestyle rather than a two week weight loss miracle.
Scientifically, habit breaking or habit forming can only be accomplished by repetitive actions – and much desire to make or break the habit.