Healthy habits - how to create effectively?

Do you know that as many as 95% of people starting a diet in 1 to 5 years return to the starting point? Most of them even retreat, recovering kilos with difficulty. Why is it so difficult to introduce healthy habits? How to do to effectively and permanently implement healthy habits?

In this post, we will get to know the mechanism of creating habits.

But why? Because knowing the way habits arise, the way we work, we will know how to modify them. It is not an art to create a new practice, although for some it is a challenge. The trick is to take advantage of the already existing, deeply rooted unhealthy habit (each of us has dozens of them) turning it into a healthy behaviour that we will use automatically, like driving a car or a bicycle.

How do habits work?

Imagine an ordinary Kowalski who works in a corporation, at a desk, tries to eat regularly because he learned that thanks to this he maintains a constant blood sugar level avoiding the attacks of wolf hunger. Every day between lunch and leaving work, it is a factory cafeteria and buys a sweet roll that he eats when talking to colleagues. After all, he returns to his desk and relaxes with enthusiasm for work. He does not particularly think about it, he has been doing it for a long time, and he is good with it.

Healthy habits

This specific behaviour is a habit in which you can distinguish three critical elements of the tip, action and reward. Before I develop what they mean, we will move to the laboratory where the brain work is conducted.

Experiment with rats

In the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) laboratory, a series of tests on rats was performed in the last century. They implanted electrodes in the brain that monitored the level of brain waves. Then the animals were placed in a maze. In the beginning, the door was closed, and finally the prize - chocolate. Each time the door was opened, it produced a characteristic sound, such a click.

In the beginning, nothing unusual happened. Rats after hearing a click after opening the door, by trial and error, sought out the prize - chocolate. During the search, the level of their brain waves was at a reasonably high level - the brain was working, looking for the way to the prize. However, after a short time, when the rats learned the quickest way to chocolate, the brain activity changed - it was only active at the beginning when they heard a click and finally when they ate the reward.

This is how the habits work, in the beginning, there is a clue (click), which activates the automatic action (passing the way to chocolate) ended with a reward (eating chocolate). What is very important, the activity of the brain is minimal in its middle phase. Thanks to this, when doing routine activities, we do not have to always think about them. We can use our most valuable resource, which is the brain, for other purposes - shopping planning, conversation, reflection on an exciting book, etc.

A veil of habit and the emergence of thirst

However, the practice is something even more powerful. Already during another experiment, in which the apes were given juice - but only when they pulled the lever under certain conditions - something else was discovered. It turned out that the brain could expect or even demand a reward as a result of the hint. An example is an addiction, e.g. from nicotine. By identifying a sign of a dinner, a social event, a specific hour in the brain - a desire is created, an irresistible urge to receive a reward - an injection of nicotine into the blood.

These are potent mechanisms, very effectively used, for example, in marketing. Imagine a shopping mall in which sweet cookies baked on the spot are sold at the very end. There are no extraction systems released when baking smells, aromas of fresh cookies spread throughout the gallery. Going from the store to the store, you feel the smell, minute by minute your brain is increasingly demanding to taste. The moment you walk past the stand with baked goods, he screams - buy me a cookie! Have you not found yourself at least once in this situation?

Healthy habits

In the above-described circumstances, we are also dealing with a habit loop - ascent, a habit - buying cookies, reward - a feeling of bliss as a result of raising the level of sugar in the blood.

Another example of a habit loop is to receive a text message. The sound of the incoming SMS (tip) triggers the desire to read it (habit), the brain demands a momentary entertainment (reward). Running each custom is preceded by a hint, just turn it off (no smell of cookies, no sound of incoming message) so that the customer does not activate.

Why are most of the diets doomed to failure?

Until recently, most dieters and obesity doctors have recommended a radical change in their lives to stabilise their weight. They were advised on a restrictive diet, enrolling in gymnastics and regular meetings with nutrition counsellors.

It turned out that such an approach was often written down in advance. Patients abandoned their diet after a few weeks, and going up the stairs soon became too much of a burden for them. After initial enthusiasm, they gradually returned to their old, deep-seated habits.

Even if I do not know how much thirst was, very few people are able to change many things in their lives simultaneously, completely rebuild their lives. Healthy eating is not a sprint, but a marathon, it is necessary to approach the destination gradually, with small steps. The best way to do this is to use the habit mechanism, creating healthy habits, and even better rebuilding those unhealthy habits.

You can listen to how we gradually introduced healthy habits in our family in the article below.

How to start a healthy diet?

Healthy habits - how to turn a bad habit into a good one?

We already know how tip, habit and reward habits work, and that the element of practice can be thirst, irresistible lust created in the brain as a result of noticing a clue. So how to use this knowledge to effectively implement healthy habits?

The easiest way is to use the existing habit and replace it with a new one, the one you want - healthy. We then have two roasts with one stone. By the way, it is one of the primary methods of treatment from various addictions.

How to do it?

If you want to lose weight and one of your habits is snacking at the desk, you just need to replace routine action (snacking). Maybe when you get a hint, for example, tiredness, weariness or pure boredom, instead of snacking, take a short walk. Or find a group of people who want to motivate each other to look after healthy eating. You can also take healthy snacks, carrots, celery from the house every day and munch them when the tip appears.

When modifying habits, it is crucial to recognise tips and rewards. The routine action we want to get rid of is usually obvious - eating unhealthy things at the desk. The hint initiating this habit and the reward resulting from its implementation are much more difficult to track.

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