Those of you who follow me on Instagram already know my “Monday Mindset Coaching” . Every Monday - to start the new week - I introduce you to an exercise in which you should reflect on a specific topic. Because regular self-reflection is incredibly important in the process of transformation!
In today's Monday Mindset Coaching I would like to talk to you about routines and habits . At the beginning of the article you will find a lot of information about what habits are, how they arise and how you can break them most effectively.
Finally, I would like to give you an exercise for self-reflection and a matching affirmation. I wish you much pleasure with it!
These are habits
We all know that we humans are creatures of habit . Much of what we do throughout the day happens unconsciously . However, this behavior is controlled by habits and routines . When you get out of bed in the morning, you'll probably repeat the same routine. Maybe your first trip is to the bathroom. Or you go to the kitchen to enjoy a cup of coffee. All of this happens unconsciously, without you questioning it. We go through established automatisms that make our lives incredibly easier because we don't have to think much.
On the other hand, this autopilot can also put a lot of strain on us. For example, if these habits are harmful and we actually want to change them. It could be your addiction to cigarettes or the bag of chips you eat in the evening.
This is how habits are formed
Neuroscientists assign habits to our so-called basal ganglia . These are nuclei of our brain that lie beneath our cerebral cortex on both sides.
When we learn new skills or behavior patterns , the cerebral cortex becomes active first. This is where the headquarters for everything we consciously do is located. The more often we practice this action and are successful at it, the more natural this process becomes. This causes the brain signals to travel deeper and deeper into the interior of the brain until they finally become established as a routine in the basal ganglia described above. Thus the habit is literally internalized .
Why it's so difficult to change yourself
Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman found that 95% of the decisions we make every day do not even reach our conscious awareness . This means that we only make about 5% of our decisions consciously . Everything else is practically on autopilot. It's pretty crazy when you think of it like that, isn't it? Our usual behavior is resistant to arguments, no matter how convincing they are.
Every new stimulus costs an incredible amount of energy because it requires attention, concentration and mental processing. Our brain therefore always tries to ritualize recurring processes. This saves us mental energy that we can use for other tasks.
But routines are not just something bad, because they relieve our brain and give us security and stability . They provide support in everyday life. Without routines, our brains would be completely overwhelmed . Just imagine if you had to consciously decide every action that you previously carried out unconsciously: which hand you hold your toothbrush in, which foot you use to get out of bed,... Your brain wouldn't have time for anything else!
The cycle of a habit
If you want to change something about your habits , you should first understand what elements they are made up of and how they work. In his book "The power of habit" ("The power of habit - why we do what we do"), author Charles Duhigg divided a habit - whether good or bad - into three components :
- Trigger : The trigger is an external or internal stimulus or even a thought that sets the cycle in motion. This could be, for example, the alarm clock ringing in the morning.
- Routine : This is the action that we perform as a result of the previous stimulus (trigger). Our habit, so to speak. This could be, for example, pressing the snooze button on the alarm clock.
- Reward : The action in the previous step is followed by the reward. This is the real reason why habits manifest themselves and become automatisms. The reward messenger dopamine is released. Our brain is signaled that the action we performed in response to the specific trigger was correct and can be repeated next time. In this case, the reward can be that you allowed yourself another 10 minutes of sleep.
How you can change your habits
You shouldn't just change long-held and cherished habits overnight, you should be aware of that. It takes a lot of work , perseverance and self-discipline . But it works!
But where is the best place to start? In most cases, it makes less sense to fight the craving or avoid the trigger. According to Charles Duhigg, it is much more effective to replace the routine triggered by the desire or stimulus! In concrete terms, this means that if you want to get rid of the evening chips (routine) on the couch (trigger), consider whether you can simply replace the chips with something healthier.
As in every area , belief in successful change is a crucial factor! If you believe in failure from the start, you'll probably be right. For this reason, it is important to have small, easy-to-achieve experiences of success quickly. This is how we build trust that we can actually change our habits.
Change a habit in 8 steps
Below I have summarized 8 steps that research has shown to be effective in changing habits .
The last step is probably the hardest, because now you have to persevere ! As already mentioned above, we need a lot of time and patience to change or even completely break a bad habit.
Studies by psychologist Phillippa Lally from University College London show that it takes on average 66 days for a conscious activity to become an automated habit . Complex habits require around 1.5 times more time. A little encouragement, however, is that missing a day has little impact on the learning process.
As you can see, changing habits is a long process that requires a lot of willpower . But it's worth it! Cultivating good habits is the key to a successful, satisfied and happy life !
Monday Mindset Coaching Exercise
Think about it for yourself: What is it like for you - do you consciously integrate routines into your everyday life or do they happen more unconsciously?
Make a conscious decision today to break a routine. This could be, for example, the daily coffee for breakfast or scrolling through Instagram in the morning.
As we now know, routines and habits give us support in everyday life. However, these often already occur unconsciously, so that they are no longer questioned.
Sometimes it's good to break out of a routine and question it. In this way we either notice why the routine is good for us. Or we realize that we can get along just fine without them.