what is a habit?

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HOW THE BRAIN FORMS HABITS:
WHY WILLPOWER IS NOT
ENOUGH
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence,
then, is not an act, but a habit.”
--Aristotle
Presented by
Chandra Donohue
Kymberlie Fleming
Peter Carter
Scott O’Bryant
Content information by: Jodie Trafton, Ph.D. Institute for Brain Potential, 2011;
www.ibpceu.com
WHAT IS A HABIT?
•A regularly repeated behavior pattern
•An action or pattern of behavior that is repeated so often
that it becomes typical, although the person may be
unaware of it.
HOW IS A HABIT FORMED?
Habits are formed over time, usually
without our conscious intent allowing
them to become ingrained.
Habits are formed when the
brain links specific behaviors
with rewards.
The more immediate the reward,
the stronger the link.
Repeating the reward
will reinforce the habit.
REWARDS
Rewards are not just pleasure.
A reward is an immediate improvement.
Lessening of distress, pain, or anxiety will
ingrain a habit just as strongly as a pleasurable
reward.
BAD HABITS
•Bad habits cause immediate rewards but long-term
harm.
•Good habits must replace
bad ones
•Depriving yourself of
rewards makes the brain
seek them even more.
HOW OUR BRAIN VALUES
SOMETHING
Rewards are linked to behaviors. We can overvalue
habits that have been linked to other rewards like pretty
faces, symbols of power, successes or relief.
Classic example in advertising
ROLE OF THOUGHTS
& EMOTIONS
Our beliefs and thoughts influence every aspect of
our behavior.
The more awareness we have of our thinking, the
greater control we have over our behavior.
Situation or Event
Behavior /Habit
Thinking
Emotion
Consequence
STYLES OF DISTORTED
THINKING
Filtering
Catastrophizing
Personalization
Overgeneralization
Emotional Reasoning
Control Fallacies
WORK ON YOUR THOUGHTS
TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS
Thinking through our motivation, what we value,
where we want to be.
Recognizing distortions of thought within ourselves.
Reframing: for each form of distorted thinking, come
up with a disputation.
Retrain the Brain: practice substituting distorted
thoughts with more accurate disputations.
WHAT MAKES CHANGING
HABITS DIFFICULT??
Habits become deeply ingrained over time and
the brain almost automatically initiates patterns
of behavior in response to various stimuli.
Without a clearly defined plan or strategy, very
little chance for success.
Modify expectations for results (gradual
progress is more likely than immediate success).
SET ACHEIVABLE GOALS
•Awareness is the first key
•Link your new habits to your LONG TERM
values and goals
•Use the awareness of your long term goals
(willpower) to change your own reward values
PAVE THE WAY FOR
SUCCESS
•Track
•Avoid
•Replace
•Observe
SMALL GROUP EXERCISE
Break into groups of five
You will be assigned a bad habit on your handout and
make a plan to change it.
-What steps will you take to change the habit?
-How long will it take?
-What will you do to prevent failure?
WHY IS WILLPOWER NOT
ENOUGH?
“Habit is habit, and not to be flung
out of the window by any man,
but coaxed downstairs a step at a
time.” - Mark Twain
Willpower is great for increasing perseverance through a difficult
task, but is not great for preventing you from doing bad habits.
Why?
How can willpower help?
How does conscious thought modify the process?
ENABLING HABITS
Solicitous Spouse EffectOne study showed that people who deal with chronic pain
experience a measurable three-fold increase in their
experience of pain when they have a ‘solicitous spouse’
present who typically dotes on their pain.
THEN WHAT DEFINES “HELPING” ANOTHER?
The report explained that “Through the feedback loops of a
marriage or long partnership, the patient’s pain has shaped
the helping behavior of the solicitous spouse, who in turn
has become a stimulus to provoke the pain.”
SECONDARY GAIN
Doting, rescuing or attending primarily to negative
responses can reinforce bad habits in others
Providing attention, relief, or rescuing people when
they feel bad or respond inappropriately can reward
bad responses and make them habitual
These rewards can turn a negative response into a
habit
If we are rewarded for doing things that make us
feel bad, we tend to feel bad!
HABITS ARE CONTAGIOUS
•We are preprogrammed to
mimic/model the
behavior of those
we surround
ourselves with.
•Slang
•Fads
•Food
•Cigs
Visualization
The Brain Cannot Tell The Difference Between a
Real and an Imagined Action
•Mirror neurons fire when we are observing others do something,
even if we are not involved•helps pave the way for our own learning of said task.
•Mimicking those around us
•The closer the person is to you and the more you respect them,
the more you will adopt their habits (both good and bad)
Guided Imagery
practicing/imagining the new behavior can help us speed the
learning of it.
Visualizing the action strengthens your neural pathways the same
as if you had physically done the action.
GOOD HABITS
What are good habits?
-CHANGING HABITSA PLAN FOR SUCCESS
-Identity the habit you want to diminish
-Identify the habit you want to replace it with
-Set a reasonable goal and timeline that you can work with
-Do not try to eliminate more than one bad habit at a time
-Tell everyone/hold yourself accountable
-Eliminate triggers

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