Psychology and Psychiatry

Habit formation

Habit formation is a process aimed at establishing a certain behavior that has an established character and acquires the significance of a need for a person. A similar mechanism of building up life behavior is formed by repeating the same action systematically and repeatedly, supporting the process or result with positive emotions and sensations. Usually, negative habits are formed independently, without the participation of an internal critic and the intervention of a volitional component, whereas the formation of good habits often requires a person to control his behavior, develop a whole system of rewards and motivations.

Psychological aspect, reflecting the moment of establishing any behavioral manifestation, as usual, is manifested in the disappearance of volitional efforts in performing a repeated action or reducing the severity of cognitive difficulties. Here the physiological component is connected, for which the habit is the establishment of new strong neural connections after a certain number of repetitions. What is psychological, what is physiological, as well as on the mental and somatic levels, when the unusual action is performed the first time, there is strong resistance in many parts of the body due to the fact that what is being performed is new and therefore requires greater resource expenditure.

Over time, the neural connections become stronger, and their activation during the following calls to this activity will require less energy. In addition, once formed habits can successfully be maintained for a long time without reinforcement from the outside and re-actualized after a long break, but when the necessary conditions are resumed. You can remember that even if you did not write anything by hand a year, then if you need to fill in a form, you will do it automatically, just like riding a bicycle is remembered within seconds after a long break. This is due to the fact that once established neural connections are quite easily restored or do not disappear at all.

Healthy lifestyle habits

The formation of good habits is considered more long-term, however, this is only a subjective feeling, if a person has insufficient motivation. In reality, all habits require a different time, and some develop in a couple of days, and for the formation of others, months are needed. There has an impact and the rate of development of reflex behavior and psyche, and external factors.

Health is not an operation that has given you back life and the drugs you will be taking, but how you will shape your everyday life. It is the daily habits of certain moments that give a good form and sense of self. The first fundamental thing is to control what and change for the better, you should focus your attention on the quality of sleep, sleep and morning awakening. If you do not get enough sleep, every morning you jump up from the alarm bell and you do not feel that you have rested, you should change your usual rhythms. The brightest indicator that you did everything right for your body is waking up without an alarm clock in excellent condition with less sleep. Shifting the regime in the direction of the absence of night vigils, you need to take care of helping your body fall asleep. Exercise, life and organization of the regime and rituals will be great helpers (you can take a bath or read the head of your favorite book before going to bed, but take care of a smooth transition to mode).

Get a diary and enter the planning into the nightly procedures - this will simultaneously help to structure all your life and not to linger in the fulfillment of the necessary, as well as help to monitor the formation of new habits. Judge for yourself, when the action has not yet become your automatism, it is easy to forget about it or to postpone it, if it is an item of the daily plan, then you follow it, and you also get an emotional bonus for what you have done.

Planning also helps to keep track of the deadlines, because a well-planned previous day will help avoid finishing the reports at midnight, which means you will stand up with vigor and strength. Planning includes not only the schedule of your activities, but also your meals. If you try, then you should take care of your lunches and snacks in advance by choosing fresh and wholesome foods and preparing food. This requires more discipline than buying a hot dog or crackers on the run.

Gradually accustom your body to physical activity, the degree and frequency of which should be calculated relative to your needs, capabilities and initial level. If your body does not know what a sport is, then immediately sending it to an intensive training session in the sports section may turn out to be an overload and it is better to start with daily exercises. When small loads become familiar and easy for you, you can gradually increase the number and intensity. Focus on this issue on your own feelings and possibly the advice of a professional trainer, and not on the speed of your friends, since the ability to adapt and physical abilities are different for everyone.

Hygiene is an integral part of health, so it is necessary to bring to automatism the regularity of hygiene procedures regarding your own body (shower, brushing your teeth, washing your hands), as well as the surrounding space (cleaning the house, clothes, work space).

In all these aspects of developing a health habit, you should be able to be flexible in finding methods for implementation. If the gym is closed for repairs, then you can continue training in open areas, jogging in the park or in another institution; unavailability of the bathroom for proper hygiene is solved with the help of wet wipes and liquid antiseptics; sleep can be adjusted with earplugs and sleep masks or by taking an extra day off; problems with time affecting the preparation of healthy food can be solved with the help of restaurant products that meet your standards or the choice of fruit and cottage cheese as a snack, instead of chips. In general, you should remain a habit and the need to maintain health in all conditions and look for suitable methods for this.

Stages of habit formation

In the formation of a new habit, no matter what sphere it touches, the same stages of formation must still be completed. Initially, it becomes a question of choosing and determining the priority of forming a new life approach, where, of all the necessary habits, you first need to focus on one. Working simultaneously on a multitude of tasks, changing life drastically, can be a short time (about a week), after which the organism’s life will end and you will be thrown to the very initial stage. Therefore, wait for the complete formation of one habit and then grasp the next one.

The next moment is the definition of one’s own motivation to acquire a new habit. You need to establish your inner meaning and need for such changes, understanding what will lead in the future. Acting without understanding the final goal is an energy-intensive event, besides, the very lack of understanding why you are achieving something will be a sabotage factor, while a good internal motivation and a conscious desire will help.

The next stage is concrete actions, where it is worth planning the stages of achieving the intended result. When setting a goal for yourself, it is necessary to determine the time frame, form the appropriate daily schedule, and include in the daily schedule items for completing the task. Try not to take large volumes at once (if you want to start running in the morning, it’s better to start from five hundred meters than from five kilometers), breaking up big achievements into small, but accessible goals are the main mechanism in the qualitative advancement to results. After you have broken your goal into stages of achievement, you must strictly follow them. Here the most difficult begins, since it will take actions to be performed regularly and constantly, no matter what excuses suggest new life situations. For stimulation and in order not to lose heart, it will be great to have not only a diary of future plans, but also a diary for fixing the obtained achievements, which will not allow everyone to quit in the middle of the road.

It is usual to form a habit in 21 days and by the end of this term the first results are really visible, but the first week you need to keep yourself in control. Doing something new is easy and enthusiastically given on the first day, a little worse on the second, and a week later it becomes the torment and the reason for the development of unrealistic fantasies, why you should give up everything. The weekly interval is the most critical moment, having survived which becomes farther easier.

Three weeks later, the physiological formation of new neural connections takes place and it is actually possible to consider the habit formed, but it is too early to relax, because through this period of time, old ties and habits are not yet broken. Thus, you have two equivalent ways of choosing behavior, after three weeks you go out to zero, where a conscious choice appears, how to live further. For the final consolidation of the habit it will take about one and a half months, respectively, after three weeks you continue to monitor yourself with the same severity. Many, relaxing at this stage, begin to miss daily workouts, to make themselves all greater indulgences, which is supported by the old neural connections.

A finally formed habit is considered to be at the stage of its repetition within three months. After such a gap, any mechanism (physical activity, daily routine, use of products) becomes the leader in your activity and now, in order to get rid of it, you will have to go all the way again.

Why the habit is formed in 21 days

It says a lot where it is possible to form a habit in 21 days, and the question arises as to why such dates are indicated. This effect was noticed by the surgeon M.Maltz, who worked with patients in plastic surgery. In the course of his work, he noted that it is precisely such a minimum amount of time that a patient needs in order for habituation indicators to appear in their new forms or reflection in a mirror. At the same time, describing a similar pattern, the spread of which the surgeon noticed not only in the operating practice, but also in his personal life when forming his new habits, he pointed out that three weeks is the minimum term for the formation of a new mental image.

It was stated that the higher the complexity of the conceived new habit, the farther it is from the initial state of human life, the longer it takes to form. Those. setting a goal to get up at six in the morning, despite the fact that earlier you woke up at seven, you will reach it much easier and faster, having formed a new mechanism, than a person waking up to ten. In addition, the emotional background of the adjustment process affects the duration of the formation - when a person receives positive emotional reinforcement, sees and feels improvement, then it stimulates the process, but if the changes are connected with tension, irritation and stress, the formation of a habit can drag on for months.

In psychology, the sufficiency of this time period was discovered, so that a person successfully mastered a new skill, saw the first results of its use, and there remains the freedom of choice whether there is a need to constantly maintain this model. The more useful and more pleasant is the new skill, the more motivation to support its implementation. This means that 21 days does not program a person for rigorous execution, but is a kind of test drive conceived, which makes it possible to change the strategy in the absence of the desired results.

Many experiments have confirmed the fact of changes in brain activity precisely after three weeks of constant exposure or volitional behavior changes. During the same time, the adaptation to the new food, the new atmosphere in the apartment takes place. It is believed that it is for such a period that new neural connections are formed, which are responsible for the easy implementation of a new activity and its full development.

Formation of bad habits and their prevention

Habits require not only formation, but also correction, because we want to inculcate some of them, and some develop independently, and not all of our usual behavioral patterns are useful.

The formation of bad habits prevents not only the physical health of a person, as is customary to think in most cases, but also affects the emotional and motivational sphere, where they prevent the achievement of goals and a favorable course of life, and interpersonal relationships can destroy existing relationships.

There are bad habits in people who do not have a clear internal discipline and a sense of responsibility for their own actions. Those who succumb to the momentary desires, suggestion from other people, over time, may find themselves bound hand and foot with negative actions from which the need has been formed. This includes not only alcohol and drugs, but also negative forms of behavior, such as addictive behavior, excessive cruelty, the desire for an increased level of adrenaline, and seemingly ordinary laziness. People, without defining their internal values, life goals, do not expect a time perspective, rely and act on the present moment, where not every behavior can be favorable for the future. The desire to experiment can also result in the acquisition of negative dependencies, especially some chemical species are formed from the first admission.

Difficulties with building communication, injuries, anxiety and depressive disorders can be the causes of the emergence of negative habits among those who are trying to cope on their own with such serious conditions. Even if we do not consider the abuse of chemicals, there are possible options for establishing a daily regimen that negatively affects one’s well-being, immersion in a virtual communication environment, instead of live or complete isolation.

Accordingly, preventive methods to prevent the formation of negative habits should be reduced to strengthening the inner position of a person. This includes work aimed at the development of a mature personality, the search for life meanings and landmarks, the establishment of one’s own boundaries and needs, the development of a life strategy. A sensitive attitude to what is happening in a person's life can help avoid the formation of a harmful way of life, and instead develop a positive line of behavior focused on interacting with other people and finding a way out of a difficult situation with the help of support, therapy, participation, reformatting of its system of meanings, instead of leaving from the perspective and substitution of concepts.