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 new habits (and maintain them as well). 

Recent Posts on Habit Formation

Inviting Mara to Tea

By Tara Brach Ph.D. on August 03, 2015 in Finding True Refuge
One of my favorite stories of the Buddha shows the power of a wakeful and friendly heart.

Withdrawal and Inactivity Feed Depression

If you're depressed, it's natural to feel like withdrawing from others and it can be hard to motivate yourself to do anything. Unfortunately, giving into these behaviors is likely to make your mood worse, not better. Here are some small tips on how to get back on course to mental health and happiness.

How to Stop Beating Yourself Up

How to stop being your own worst bully.

Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread

By Gretchen Rubin on July 29, 2015 in The Happiness Project
What do you do, when you need to restore yourself?

Can You Create Good Habits That Stick?

Do you have the chance to do what you do best each day at work? Take a moment and think about it. Do you have the chance to do what you do best each day?

Are You an Adventurous Eater?

By Susan Albers Psy.D. on July 23, 2015 in Comfort Cravings
Do you like to try new, exotic foods or do you stick to the same foods you know you like? You may be surprised by some of the benefits of being an adventurous eater outlined in this article.

The Best Strategy For Getting Motivated

By Susan Albers Psy.D. on July 15, 2015 in Comfort Cravings
This month I've been focusing on motivation tips and getting to the bottom of what helps people to move out of their old ruts and start eating healthier and more mindfully today. Find out here!

A Memoir and a List of Loopholes Used to Justify Drinking

By Gretchen Rubin on July 14, 2015 in The Happiness Project
Do you have a favorite loophole, that you find yourself turning to most often?

Why Waiting for Your Vacation to Unwind May Be Hurting You

Have you been waiting for that highly-anticipated vacation? Research is demonstrating that including daily break rituals in your routine can help stave off burnout and keep you from stress overload and exhaustion.

2 Words That Could Mean You Have a Drug Problem

What you say to yourself and to others about your drug or alcohol use is trying to tell you something. Listen.

Why Do Women Live Longer Than Men?

Women live longer than men because of modern lifestyle factors, rather than any biological difference, a new study reports.

Can You Create Lasting Change?

When it comes to creating the changes you really want to make in your work or in you life, do ever find you have difficulty making this last?

Why We Use Drugs: The Power of Addictive Tendencies

Addictions are a hotel; they are not home but can remind people of home so powerfully that they won’t easily abandon them without knowing where their real home is and how to get there.

Put Your Strengths to Work!

Do you have the chance to do what you best each day? Not just now and again. Not even just most days. But each and every day?

When Adolescents Continually Lie

Continually lying to parents needs to prove counter-productive for the adolescent.

Lessons From Happiness and Habits to Help Me Buy a Backpack

By Gretchen Rubin on June 26, 2015 in The Happiness Project
Some people love finishing, and some people love opening—both literally and figuratively.

Why We Shouldn’t Reward Ourselves for Good Habits

By Gretchen Rubin on June 24, 2015 in The Happiness Project
In large part because the lesson is: be very wary of using rewards to master habits!

Behavioral Economics—An Exercise in Design and Humility

By Alain Samson Ph.D. on June 23, 2015 in Consumed
What's the state of your bad decision making? Read Dan Ariely's exclusive take on irrationality and its consequences.

What My Husband Taught Me About Unpacking

By Gretchen Rubin on June 22, 2015 in The Happiness Project
When I was younger, I followed the “unpack as necessary” approach. I’d leave my suitcase open on the floor, and take out things as I needed them...it took a few days to empty the suitcase.

Good Pain, Bad Pain: Can You Tell the Difference?

There comes a day when you realize what you really need is a babysitter, coach, therapist or a bootcamp.

Inside Out: Emotional Intelligence Made (Maybe Too) Easy

This movie makes it fun to ponder emotional conflict, but it needs a sequel on the risk of using sadness as a way to get love. Til then, we can learn more about our inner conflicts from gorgeous graphics than boring buzzwords.

Find Freedom and Joy in Saving Money

Do you live beyond your means and rely on credit to get you through? It's a hard habit to change, but when you finally commit to financial health it will set you free in all kinds of ways.

Do You Have an Undiagnosed Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is a time bomb waiting to go off—and it may be about to go off in your life.

Weight Loss Motivation: Secrets to Staying on Track, Part 3

In Part 3, the last in this series, we discuss how to apply this latest research on the importance of intrinsic motivation to your life. Learn how to tap into your unique drivers, what motivates you, what you enjoy, and discover how to connect fitness and weight loss to your interests and values for long-term success.

Weight Loss Motivation: Secrets to Staying on Track, Part 2

In 1996 a team of scientists from the Departments of Psychology and Medicine at the University of Rochester in New York wanted to investigate motivation and weight loss. The researchers found that the type of motivation the participants had significantly affected how much weight was lost.

Could This Be the One Real Secret to Self Motivation?

By Karl Albrecht Ph.D. on June 11, 2015 in BrainSnacks
Maybe the perpetually cynical, pessimistic individual is simply accessing older evolutionary brain patterns. And maybe the optimistic, “can-do” person has learned to access a newer, more versatile set of brain resources.

Weight Loss Motivation: Secrets to Staying on Track, Part 1

A recent meta-analysis study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at different weight loss plans and found no significant difference between the success of one program versus another. It came down to the individual’s motivation to stay with the program that made all the difference.

Woodpeckers, Financial Success And You

By Michael F. Kay on June 04, 2015 in Financial Life Focus
A woodpecker lays claim to the tree right beside my bedroom window. At 4:57 AM, her work commences on a schedule only she comprehends. It feels like jackhammers blasting pavement on the pillow to my left. Incessantly banging, towards a purpose only a woodpecker could understand. When will it ever stop?

To Change a Hurtful Mental Habit, Make "The 4 Decisions"

By Meg Selig on June 04, 2015 in Changepower
Sometimes our own thinking makes us suffer. Negative mental habits are hard to change, but "The 4 Decisions" will make your mind a friendlier place.

Secret of Adulthood: Accept Ourselves...

By Gretchen Rubin on June 04, 2015 in The Happiness Project
We must strive to know ourselves, and accept the truth about ourselves.