Changing one’s life, be it quitting smoking, becoming healthier or focussing on generally being happier, can seem like a nigh on impossible task if you’ve previously tried and failed in your efforts, perhaps numerous times. This isn’t helped by there being a confusing landscape of conflicting advice and essential tips and tricks that mislead and misinform.
How Habits Form
Each and every habit, be it eating too much or smoking, begins with a psychological pattern known as a ‘habit loop’; this loop consists of three distinct parts that form a process. First of all there is the cue (or trigger) this tells your brain to enter an automated mode and allow a set of predefined behaviour to occur. Second, there is the behaviour itself (which is the part that we regard as the habit itself). Third, there is the reward, which acts much like a congratulation or confirmation to the brain that what you’re doing is worthwhile and rewarding, this completes the habit loop and ensures that the brain remembers the habit loop the next time around.
Neuroscientists who have studied habits have identified that it is the basal ganglia part of the brain that is responsible for this habit-forming behaviour. This section of the brain is the part that is also responsible for things such as feelings, emotions, memories and pattern recognition.
The key to understanding habits (and indeed overcoming them) is to know that decisions are made in a separate area of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, which, once a habit is formed, effectively turns off. Therefore breaking a habit involves the reconditioning of one’s brain functions.
30 Days…The Science
30 days may not sound like a long time, particularly not when trying to change your life, however there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this short time period is quite sufficient, and enough time to make significant changes to your life , especially when you’re using some form of organised self coaching.
This time frame is frequently quoted universally by scientists, philosophers and self-help gurus, with some even saying that an even shorter timescale of 21 days is enough.
Why 30 may be the golden number
Habits, both bad and good are exactly that: habits. They are second nature and so form parts of our lives that we unwittingly undertake every day. Because of the nature of habits and the automated way in which we undertake them they can take but a short time to both form and break.
Making Significant Changes in 30 days
Many people fail because they try to take on too much at once. In order to be successful at habit breaking you need to gain an understanding of moving out of predefined activities that seem ‘natural’. So take small steps and work out what does and doesn’t work for you.
All habits are different. Quitting smoking will be different to overindulging, whilst addressing a short temper will be different to becoming more positive. For this reason you must be incredibly specific as to what behaviours and activities you are trying to stop or replace with new behaviours.
A balanced approach
In order to change your life for the better it’s vital that, as well as considering what it is that you want to improve, you additionally think about what is having a detrimental impact upon your life. There are many negative habits within one’s life that can stop you from succeeding, so along with your positive aims, you should also think about your aims as to what you should stop. So if you’re trying to become healthier through dieting, you should try to break the habit of relying upon your car too much, shopping on an empty stomach or grazing throughout the day whether through boredom or lack of time.
Of course, this is only a brief explanation about how you can begin to change your life in just 30 days, but it’s a start; and once you get started there’s no telling what you will achieve.More