Changing habits is hard. It’s easier to stop smoking, but harder to start exercising or eating healthier foods. That’s why it’s important to understand how habits form and how they can be changed. In this article I’ll show you how psychology can help identify cues that trigger certain behaviors, along with alternatives that will help you replace those behaviors with new ones that suit your lifestyle better.
How habits form.
Habits form through repetition and association. When you’ve been exposed to something enough times, your brain starts to recognize that particular cue as a trigger for doing what you want to do. This can happen in as little as 21 days!
If we take the example of a chocolate cake recipe, it’s not just the ingredients that are linked together; there’s also a story associated with each one: “this is how I learned how my mom makes chocolate cakes.” A habit has been formed at this point—you remember seeing this cake recipe before and now associate the smell of baking flour with pleasure (or perhaps pain). If we give ourselves some time away from our favorite dessert after dinner every night for seven days in a row, then go back on Saturday evening during dinner hour and say ‘no more’ before eating any sweets again next week—we’ll likely find ourselves craving them less often because our brains have processed all those signals about what triggers pleasure versus pain in relation to eating chocolate cake vs having an orgasm after getting off work early on Friday afternoon…