The Science of Making and Breaking Habits: Practical Tips for Everyday Life
Habits are an integral part of our lives. They allow us to automate certain actions, freeing up our cognitive resources for other tasks. However, not all habits are beneficial. Some habits can be detrimental to our health and well-being, and breaking them can be a challenging task. Similarly, developing good habits can be difficult, but it is not impossible. In this blog post, we will discuss practical tips for making and breaking habits based on Andrew Huberman's research.
Andrew Huberman is a Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine. He has conducted extensive research on the biology of habit formation and habit-breaking. In his Huberman Lab Podcast #53, he discussed the neuroscience of habit formation and provided practical steps for anyone to use.
Let's start with making habits:
Start small: One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to develop a habit is trying to do too much too soon. It is essential to start small and build momentum gradually. For example, if you want to start a habit of exercising every day, start with just five minutes of exercise and gradually increase the duration over time.
Choose a specific time and place: It is easier to develop a habit if you do it at the same time and place every day. This creates a cue for your brain to start the habit. For example, if you want to start a habit of meditating every morning, choose a specific time and place to meditate, such as 7 am in your living room.
Make it enjoyable: It is essential to enjoy the habit you are trying to develop. If you hate running, then trying to develop a habit of running every day is not going to work. Find an activity that you enjoy and try to develop a habit around it.
Create a reward system: Our brain is wired to seek rewards. Create a reward system for yourself that will motivate you to continue the habit. For example, if you want to develop a habit of reading every day, reward yourself with a piece of chocolate or some other treat after you finish reading.
Chunk the Habit-Forming Process: Breaking habits can be challenging, but chunking the process into 2-day bins can help. This involves focusing on one habit for two days, and then moving on to the next one. This allows for more focus and better results.
Now, let's discuss breaking habits:
Identify the trigger: Habits are often triggered by specific cues or events. Identify what triggers your habit and try to avoid or change it. For example, if you have a habit of snacking on junk food while watching TV, try to avoid watching TV or replace the junk food with healthier options.
Use the 2-day rule: The 2-day rule is a technique developed by Huberman. If you slip up and engage in the habit you are trying to break, do not beat yourself up about it. Instead, commit to not engaging in the habit for the next two days. This technique helps you break the cycle of the habit and makes it easier to stay on track.
Measure your degree of limbic friction: The limbic system is responsible for our emotions and motivation. Measuring your degree of limbic friction can help you understand how likely you are to execute a new habit. If you are tired or stressed, it will take more limbic friction to get you into action. Try to engage in habits when you are alert and energized.
Create a punishment system: Our brains are wired to avoid punishment. Create a punishment system for yourself that will discourage you from engaging in the habit. For example, if you have a habit of smoking, punish yourself by giving money to a charity every time you smoke.
In conclusion, making and breaking habits can be challenging, but with the right strategies and tools, it is possible to achieve success. Andrew Huberman's research provides valuable insights into the science of habit formation and breaking. By understanding the biological and psychological factors that influence habits, and by implementing practical tips such as setting specific goals, tracking progress, and creating a supportive environment, anyone can develop new habits or break old ones. Remember, consistency is key, so be patient, stay committed, and enjoy the journey towards a healthier, happier you.