Everyone has habits; some habits are good while others can be bad ones that we struggle to be free from. Despite being nagged daily about a bad habit, it is almost as if our brain has a will of its own, stubbornly refusing to undo a behaviour that does not benefit us. It could be a habit of shaking our legs incessantly at the dining table, emotional eating, compulsive spending, biting our fingernails or checking our smartphone every few minutes.
How do habits form? All habits are cultivated. They are done again and again before they become actions we carry out without thinking. They become automatic. The region of the brain that is responsible for the creation of habits is called the striatum. When an action is going to be done, the signals of that action must be passed to the front part of the brain. This part processes our thoughts. We think before we decide to do the action. If the same action is repeated, the thinking part stops. We do the action without deciding whether to do it or not – we just do it.
To overcome a bad habit, you must first be aware of the habit before any change can be possible. For instance, a bad habit is binge-eating when you are upset. To be able to get rid of this habit, you must first realise that this is a behaviour that does not benefit you. You know that you must stop it.
Another habit that must be recognised before it can be stopped is shaking your legs in the exam hall or even at the dinner table. Those who do this don’t even know that this bad habit can be irritating to many. So the first step is to realise that there is a real problem and the problem needs to be fixed for your own good.
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