Understanding Habit Formation

Habit formation is the process by which new behaviors become automatic. If you instinctively reach for a cigarette the moment you wake up in the morning, you have a habit. By the same token, if you feel inclined to lace up your running shoes and hit the streets as soon as you get home, you've acquired a habit. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form. That's because the behavioral patterns we repeat most often are literally etched into our neural pathways. The good news is that, through repetition, it's possible to form—and maintain—new habits.

Recent posts on Habit Formation

10 Ways to Make Yourself Happier in 30 Seconds or Less

By Meg Selig on July 28, 2016 in Changepower
Can you create your own feeling of happiness? Use these 10 research-based techniques to become happier in 30 seconds or less. And their benefits could last a lifetime.

Two (Often Overlooked) Ways to Improve Your Quality of Life

Do you want to improve your quality of life, but don't know where to begin? If so, I have good news. A study published today offers two practical ways to improve quality of life.
Bryan Sherwood, flickr

Is There One “Best” Type of Temperament? Or Tendency?

By Gretchen Rubin on July 26, 2016 in The Happiness Project
People often ask me questions like, “What’s the best Tendency?” “Which Tendency tends to be the most successful?” “Which Tendency has the happiest people?”

Specific Commitments Can Change Behavior

By Art Markman Ph.D. on July 26, 2016 in Ulterior Motives
Psychology has learned a lot in experimental studies about how to change behavior. Will that work in the real world?
Jen Gallardo, flickr

5 Tips to Deal With Insomnia

By Gretchen Rubin on July 26, 2016 in The Happiness Project
I violated one of the most basic back-to-sleep tips — the tip to get up, rather than toss and turn.
Philipp Reiner/StockSnap.io

Why Change Is So Hard

Change is hard only if you think it's so.

Substance Abuse Counseling and an Arm Implant: A Good Match?

Is an arm implant for substance abuse really a good shot in the arm for substance abuse counseling? What counselors should know.

3 Easy Things You Can Do to Be More Successful

By Ryan Anderson on July 24, 2016 in The Mating Game
Are you wondering how to be successful? Greatness is within everyone. A few simple adjustments to your life can go a long way.

Are You Smiling?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on July 24, 2016 in Talking Apes
Most people are prisoners of their emotions. Take control of yours, and you’ll see more positive outcomes in your social exchanges.

When the Lying Starts

By Kyle D. Pruett M.D. on July 20, 2016 in Once Upon a Child
How to understand and discourage lying

New Research Asks, “Does Why You Look at Porn Matter?”

A new study links “escapist porn use” to negative life consequences.

The Social Network of Food

By Nicole Avena Ph.D. on July 17, 2016 in Food Junkie
Negotiating for support can be especially important when you are trying to make some dietary/lifestyle changes.

How to Change Unhealthy Habits

Are you tired of your unhealthy habits? If you're ready to make a change, here are 10 clear steps to changing old habits that aren't serving you.

The Loneliness of the Solitary Dieter

We have all heard it; the teasing, the envy masquerading as condescension, the resentment that you are losing weight and making positive changes. How do you respond?

The Life-Changing Magic of Exercise: Inspired by Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo, Japanese organization guru, has magical methods for sparking joy and getting rid of clutter. What if we applied them to exercise? This will really be life-changing.

Activation Energy: How It Keeps Happiness at a Distance

By Jaime L. Kurtz Ph.D. on July 10, 2016 in Happy Trails
Find yourself wasting your precious leisure time? A few simple changes can make a big difference.

10 Factors Predicting Relapse

An understanding of the circumstances under which people fail at self-control can provide valuable insights into how to overcome self-control problems.

Encouraging Independence in Young Children

By Kyle D. Pruett M.D. on June 28, 2016 in Once Upon a Child
Moving away from neediness and toward confident autonomy in the school-age years.
Gretchen Rubin

3 Things My Puppy Taught Me About Happiness

By Gretchen Rubin on June 27, 2016 in The Happiness Project
If you have a pet, what has your pet taught you about happiness?

3 Reasons Why You Should Cuddle More

Cuddling can help you rewrite your history of trust, and enable you to enjoy feeling safe more often.

15 Minutes of Daily Walking Could Save Your Life

If you don’t have time for long workouts—or hate breaking a sweat—I have good news. Just 15 minutes of walking a day is associated with life-saving health benefits.

The Neuroscience of Planning and Navigating Your Daily Life

Stanford researchers have identified how the human brain navigates daily life.

How to Make Peace With Something You Cannot Control

When the world disappoints your expectations, your brain releases cortisol and it feels like an emergency. You can re-wire your brain to feel safe when you’re not in control.

What to Do When Your Routine Becomes a Rut

When a routine becomes a rut you miss opportunities to try something new. Balance risks and rewards to avoid getting stuck doing the same old thing.

16 Ways to Breathe, Mama, Breathe This Summer

Summer is a perfect time to bring more mindfulness into your life. Here are some simple ways to savor the season while keeping cool, calm, and collected with kids.

Living in the Limelight and the Underbelly of Superfluidity

What can we learn from Prince's tragic death? This blog post offers some insights based on the latest neuroscience of opioid addiction and the common pitfalls of fame and fortune.

How Your Childhood Affects Your Money Today

By Michael F. Kay on June 02, 2016 in Financial Life Focus
Your past holds the secret key to unlocking the reasons why you are either stumbling or strutting in your money life.

5 Psychological Habits That Limit Your Ability to Think

By Guy Winch Ph.D. on June 01, 2016 in The Squeaky Wheel
Your brain has a finite amount of processing power. Here's how to avoid wasting it.

Never Get Out of Bed Again

Why are we moving heaven and earth so we never have to move?

Neuroscience Pinpoints How the Brain Makes and Breaks Habits

In a groundbreaking new study, neuroscientists have pinpointed the brain mechanisms that drive habit formation.