Why do some activities become habits and others don’t?

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We all have good and bad habits. Trying to engage in new positive activities often requires tremendous effort and ultimately you still may not succeed. At times, however, we may discover that some not-so-good behaviours have become quite unexpectedly and spontaneously our habits. So what does it actually take to create a habit?

It depends on dozens of different factors. One of the bigger ones is the reward you get for doing this activity. Scientists claim that an integral part of every habit is the reward that you get, otherwise you wouldn’t do it. The reward can be a good feeling, to have a full stomach, something that you can touch, some nice emotion… The options are endless. For example, brushing your teeth gives you a great feeling of cleanliness and freshness. Emptying (by eating) your chips bag in the evening creates a blissful enjoyment, and ten crunches in the morning make you feel your abs.

An important part of every habit is the reward you get for that activity. Mostly you are unaware of it, but without the reward the habit will not work.

The same habit can mean different rewards for different people. While one has a running habit to feel more energetic, the other is running regularly to lose calories. It is also possible to get the same reward by doing different activities. For example, you can relax in the evening with a beer as well as taking a bath.

Here is a hint for those who want to get rid of bad habits. Find out why you are doing something negative. What’s the reward you get? Is it possible to get the same feeling or emotion by doing something else? Try different activities and replace the bad habit with a new one. Replace not simply abandon this activity. Nature does not tolerate empty space, and if you miss your usual reward, you can be sure your brain will not accept it and force you to do the bad habit again.

Losing the bad habit at once is far more difficult than replacing it with something useful that provides the same feeling or result.

One bad habit that I wanted to break for myself was sitting too long and in a very bad position behind the computer. I used to sit down behind the computer, throw myself almost flat on the chair and put my feet up on a base somewhere under the desk. It felt comfortable, but I knew that this position is not doing good for my posture. Now I spend most of my time behind the computer standing up. Although I don’t have a standing desk (yet) I built a platform that I can use to put my laptop on and I’m really pleased with this decision. And this habit stuck with me quickly. Why? Because I really enjoy the reward for it: my back is straight, I now have the opportunity to look out of the window and rest my eyes by just rising my head, I can take a few quick and easy steps during my pauses (previously it took quite a while to come out of that comfortable position half-way under the table) and I also get some enjoyable physical activity. In the past, I got a good feeling by sprawling on the chair, now it’s quite the opposite.

Desire gives strength to your habit.

By making the rewards of doing your daily rituals as desirable as possible, you will be able to create the habits more easily. Scientists have determined that the desire for reward is crucial to making activities automatic.