The psychology of creating good habits, and getting rid of bad ones

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

There is no doubt that what goes on in our brains affects what we do. That is why it is important to understand our own behaviors and why we choose to do them and not others.


In order to form a new habit, it must be repeated over and over for a period of time. It's not enough to make a single decision. But how do we motivate ourselves to keep repeating an action? Habit memory depends upon what you have done, not on decision making. Habit memory is similar to muscle memory. The more you repeat an action (or even a thought) the easier it becomes to do or think that thing. One thing that happens with us when we develop a habit is something called "friction." Friction is best described as an environment we create that makes it easier to do the action. The same works for habit deletion. We can create friction in the environment of the habit we want to stop. For example, if a person comes home from work every day and first thing they do is go to the fridge to eat something unhealthy, you can create friction by placing a note on the fridge reminding you of a goal of eating healthy. One thing I personally did was to put a lock on the fridge so whenever I have a random thought to raid the fridge, I have go through the trouble of unlocking two locks before I can open the fridge and freezer doors.


Maslow's hierarchy of Needs

There are five major needs theories, Maslow's Hierarchy of needs is one them. His theory maintains that people must first satisfy basic needs before they are motivated to grow and reach their full potential. In another blog post I wrote on mindfulness I said that you can't expect to start a meditation regimen if you feel like crap physically, or if you have a severe headache. Same concept here. You can never hope to address the more advanced hierarchical needs if you haven't satisfied the basic lower ones first. The more I write about dieting science, detoxification and living healthy, the more I am convinced of the connectivity of things. While that might be discouraging to hear for some, it is actually a great thing if you are serious about your health. The good news for everyone is that you can just start where you are! The tools are available, but no one single solutions works the same for everyone. People start at various stages, and will have a different journey to get to their goals and that's okay because we are all different.


What are the elements of change?

So what does it take to change? Is there a right (or wrong) time to consider making a major change like going on a diet or starting a workout regimen? It's probably not a good idea to start a diet program during the holiday season if you love to cook for family and friends if you know watching calories is not going to be a priority. Kendra Cherry of Verywellmind.com says there are three elements of behavioral change: Readiness to change - Do you have the resources and knowledge to make a lasting change successfully? Barriers to change: Is there anything preventing you from changing? Likelihood of relapse: What might trigger a return to a former behavior? These three elements are a part of a model called the Transtheoretical Model. Whatever model works best for you, the most important thing is to eventually make a decision when it's the best time for you and don't give up. Your body AND mind will love you for it.


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