The amount of time we spend actually thinking about what we do is minimal. According to research by Duke Univeristy in 2006, 40 percent of actions performed each day are not decisions, but habits. In other words, we do not think about what we are doing. We just go through the motions. “All of our […]

The amount of time we spend actually thinking about what we do is minimal. According to research by Duke Univeristy in 2006, 40 percent of actions performed each day are not decisions, but habits. In other words, we do not think about what we are doing. We just go through the motions.

“All of our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits” William James, 1892

When I think of habits, negative habits are what come to mind first. I can think of a laundry list of bad habits. Emotional eating. Smoking. Netflix binges. Ice cream binges. Incessant cell phone checking. Texting and driving. Gossiping. High Carb diets. Poor Dental Hygiene. Emotional flare-ups. The list goes on. I can easily come up with a top ten list of bad habits for myself in no time at all.

Fortunately, what holds true for my negative habits and your negative habits, still holds true for habits that are healthy. For every habit, there is a cycle. It starts with a cue or trigger that jump starts the habit. Then comes the behavior or ritual. and then reward. Over time, the brain starts to anticipate the reward as soon as it is exposed to the trigger, or cue. When the brain begins craving the reward before it comes, the habit has been clearly established.

What is the good news about this? Habits are not set in stone. Bad habits do not have to become our character or our destiny. We can replace our bad habits with new ones. The cues of bad habits will always be remembered, but can weaken over time with disuse.

One of my goals is to replace my negative emotional habits concerning being a parent… So many days when the kids wake up, I am in the habit of facing the day with dread that my actual work day is not going to end until 14-15 hours later when they are snuggly tucked in bed.

Just like brushing my teeth, having a positive outlook on parenting is simply a habit. Reworking emotional habits is the topic of next week's blog.

What new emotional habits would you like to establish?

These principles come from Charles Duhigg's book “The Power of Habit”.