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 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

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.

What One Thing Is Most Important?

By Gretchen Rubin on June 04, 2015 in The Happiness Project
Agree, disagree? How would you fill in the blank?

Why You and Your Partner Need to Unplug

Confronting technoference in your relationship: The risks involved in developing an addictive relationship with technology and encouragement to take steps to become less compulsive.

When to Eat a Salad: Before or During a Meal?

Do you love summer salads? I did some research on whether it is helpful to serve/order a salad before or during a meal and how it impacts your appetite. And, I give an exciting new type of salad that can help you to eat more mindful.

How to Direct Your Dreams

By Michelle Carr on May 28, 2015 in Dream Factory
We often feel that we don’t have any control over our dreams. But the truth is, we do. How we react to situations in waking life dictates how we behave in dreams, and in this way, we are responsible for creating our own dreams.

Stop Numbing Out and Awaken to Your Life

Do you frequently numb out with food, television, social media or drama? Escapist habits quietly cheat us of the life that we're meant to live and prevent the healing that wants to take place in our hearts.

The Wacky Neuroscience of Forgetting How to Ride a Bicycle

A new experiment with a "backwards brain bicycle" illustrates how easy it is to forget everything you thought you knew about riding a bicycle. In this blog post, I'll explore the neuroscience behind learning—and forgetting—how to ride a bicycle.

A Few Surprising Predictors of Exercise Enjoyment

While further research is always needed from multiple labs and with multiple and diverse populations, our most recent research suggests that your beliefs about your own fitness and working harder might actually help you to enjoy your exercise more. And if you enjoy it, you’ll do it. And if you do it, your body, mind and soul will be better off as well.

What to Do When Your Anxiety Won’t Go Away

Outsmart your brooding ways with these nine mind games. After all, calm is an inside job.

How Do Drugs Hijack Your Brain?

Occasional use of certain drugs can trigger structural changes in your brain that make some people more likely to become addicts.

How to Organize Your Financial Life

Tax time is over and you swear it won’t be like this again.

One Billion People Share This Addiction. Are You Among Them?

The global statistics on substance abuse and addiction are surprising. One billion people around the world share a common addiction. Are you one of them?

A Grab Bag of Wisdom to Help You Enter Flow

You know those times when you aren't in the mood to write, but you want to get in the mood? Read some of these honest and insightful quotes from good writers to help ease your own transition into the headiness of a creative flow state.