The Power of Habits Part 1: How Habits Can Be Helpful
Ah, January. It’s the time of year when we’re more likely to think about habits. We all have habits, good or bad. Some of us might find ourselves biting our nails, smoking, doomscrolling, or drinking too much coffee. We might also have habits of sleeping well, engaging in a relaxing hobby, and exercising regularly.
When we hear the word habit, we may imagine something bad or negative that is a problem in our daily lives. Actually, though, the term “habit” is neutral, the act of forming habits in the brain is a natural process. and we can harness the power of habits to help us create the lives we want and shape the selves we want to grow into.
Gretchen Rubin, author of best-selling self-help books like The Happiness Project and Better Than Before, told Goop, “Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday existence.” So what exactly are we talking about when we talk about habits?
What Is a Habit?
In simple terms, a habit is something that we do often and without much thought. It has become a part of our routine that we do without working very hard or thinking about it much – a habit basically skips the decision-making part of our brains.
According to British educator Charlotte Mason, whose philosophy of education is known for its focus on habit-formation, “We are all mere creatures of habit. We think our accustomed thoughts, make our usual small talk, go through the trivial round, the common task, without any self-determining effort of will at all. If it were not so — if we had to think, to deliberate, about each operation of the bath or the table — life would not be worth having; the perpetually repeated effort of decision would wear us out.” This is what we call decision-fatigue, and Mason is right – habits help us cut down on the number of decisions we’re making each day. The question, then, becomes whether the habits we have, that are bypassing that decision-making process, are the habits we really want.
Some habits are considered harmful because they do not contribute to our physical, emotional, or behavioral well-being. These are things that might be regarded as bad, like being late, not getting enough sleep, emotional drinking, or swearing in front of your 2-year-old nephew.
Good habits help us live healthier, happier, and more productive lives. Think of behaviors like brushing your teeth, connecting with your partner every day, and practicing mindfulness. These are considered good because they help us live healthy, peaceful lives both now and in the future.
Benefits of Good Habits
Our habits help define who we are as individuals. Through them, we can establish ourselves in the world. One of the most encouraging things bout habits is that each one started with an individual choice. So, if you decide you want to be the kind of person who reads for pleasure 30 minutes each day, you can start to become such a person by choosing to do crack open a book and set a timer today. Engaging in healthy repetitive actions can help us learn to love ourselves and promote personal growth.
Reach Your Goals
Utilizing and implementing good habits can help us reach our goals. Sometimes, our goals are harder to reach because our poor habits prevent us from achieving them. By establishing good actions in place of bad ones, we can finally achieve our goals. (This is a key part of habit formation that we’ll explore later in this series.)
Consistency is a critical component of good mental health. Establishing healthy repetitive actions throughout our life can help us establish a good and consistent routine. This consistency keeps us on a healthy track. By choosing which behaviors we want to turn into habits, we can essentially lay down the tracks we want the train of our lives to run on. (That’s a Charlotte Mason metaphor, actually.)
Improve Quality of Life
With increased motivation and will to lean on what is good for us rather than what is bad for us, we get more out of life. Establishing good behaviors enables us to stray away from the things that hold us back and run towards what is good.
Sew Life-Long Change
Life-long change can be hard to achieve. When we have destructive behaviors in our lives, changing them can feel impossible. But that’s not true. Establishing good habits is hard work, but it sews life-long change in our lives. By working hard to establish good routines, consistency, and repetitive actions, we improve the quality of our life for years to come.
Are you eager to replace bad habits with good habits? Click here to connect to a mental health provider in your area.
For more in this series, see
The Power of Habits, Part 2: Leaving Habits Behind
The Power of Habits, Part 3: How to Form a Good Habit
Mason, C. (n.d.). Home Education. Part III. “Habit Is Ten Natures.” V. The Laying Down of Lines of Habit. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.amblesideschools.com/manual/Charlotte-Mason/part-iii-habit-ten-natures
Rubin, G. (2018, July 06). Better Than Before: Making & Keeping Resolutions. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://goop.com/wellness/mindfulness/better-than-before-making-keeping-resolutions/
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