The word “Habit” usually conjures up images of something bad, like the habit of biting one’s fingernails, smoking, fidgeting, talking out of place – you know the drill.
Habits are created by repeating the same action over and over until it becomes a natural thing to do without thinking. The repetition creates an action, or path in the brain, that is subconsciously followed. Like a path in a field, the more use or repetition a habit receives, the deeper and wider the path becomes ingrained in the brain.
I once heard it takes 28 repetitions to make or break a habit. I don’t know if that’s true but many agree that habits are usually created or changed within a few weeks of repeating the action.
Most habits are created more easily than they can be broken because once the pathway of the habit is set in the brain it must be replaced with a new or different pathway. If you fold a piece of paper and make a crease, it is very easy to make another fold in the same place. Removing the fold is much more difficult.
Athletes and musicians hone their craft by repeating the same actions until they become proficient at the task. Creating routines makes tasks easier to follow with better efficiency and accuracy.
Getting kids to create good habits may take a little work but the results can help them with school and daily life. Regularly brushing teeth, saying “Thank You,” reading, doing homework, not forgetting homework, writing neatly – the list goes on.
How do you create Good Habits or replace Bad Habits?
1. Understand what habit needs to be created or replaced. Once habits are formed they live in the subconscious and it is unlikely the person knows they have a bad habit.
2. Make a conscious effort to create or replace a habit. In the beginning it is important to think about the habit and repeat it often. The first few days the habit should be repeated as many times as possible if forming a new one. At least three times a day might work. If correcting a bad habit use a signifier as a reminder. An example would be to stop biting fingernails. Paint the nails red (for girls) or tie a string around the finger (for boys) so that it stands out.
3. Keep the concentration high on the action. Think about it and repeat it often. Resist any temptation to repeat a bad habit. Resistence will help create a strong pathway in the brain.
4. Continue the action for at least two weeks without fail. If it’s a difficult habit to make or break it may take a month, but concentration and repetition will drive it home in the brain until it is rooted in the subconscious.
Once a good habit has been created or a bad one eliminated, find others to work on. Creating good habits isn’t that hard but they make life easier. The subconscious is a powerful weapon for living life on auto-pilot and becoming more efficient.