Habits can be tricky business; good habits are hard to create, and bad habits are easy to keep. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t create some great habits!
Why are habits so important?
Generally, habits tend to make life much easier. For example, creating the habit of drinking 8 cups of water a day can do wonderful things for your physical and mental health and generally improve your quality of life. They can also be great at ensuring you get certain things done; from something as small as taking medication to as big as going to the gym, habits are fantastic ways of letting your subconscious take the wheel, encouraging you to get things done!
But that’s not all! Creating (good) habits can go a long way in improving your brain’s function! Habits are, the majority of the time, unconscious actions; this means that they don’t require any real thought. This then takes off a load from your mental plate, freeing up your thoughts for more important and interesting things!
Where does the struggle come from?
Creating a habit can take, on average, at least 66 days. That’s over two months before the habit becomes automatic! This long period of time is one the biggest reasons that people lose track of creating new habits. It can be discouraging to be spending such a long time on something and not seeing any results. Bad habits can seem impossible to break, too. This, alongside the time it takes to create a new habit, can be detrimental in the 2-month period when developing that new habit. On top of that, it can take some people up to a year to form that habit, a very discouraging number.
Another big reason people can’t form habits easily is because they often make them unachievable. Quite often, people get confused between habits that are life-changing, and habits that change your lifestyle. Let’s put this into context: deciding to lose 24lbs in 3 months is life changing. But that’s not an easy goal and requires a lot of small steps to get there; instead, the habit should be to go to the gym at least 3 times a week, a much more achievable goal.
The main, and final reason that’ll be mentioned today, is the reason bad habits are so easy to keep (and good habits are so hard to create). Bad habits provide quick, easy hits of dopamine, the chemical that’s responsible for satisfaction and motivation. This is because, most commonly, bad habits are associated with behaviours that are immediately satisfying (like continuing to watch TikTok instead of studying), but in reality can have long-term consequences.
It’s important to note that those who are neurodivergent often have different experiences with the release of dopamine, making it that much more difficult to successfully create a habit.
So how do you actually create the habit?
As mentioned before, it can take a long time to create a habit. But you shouldn’t let this discourage you! While it may take a while, the end goals are always undeniably worth it. Plus, there are some ways to make it much more bearable, and maybe even speed up the process.
The main part of creating a habit is to do with classical conditioning: this is the process of learning to associate a behaviour with a reward. In terms of habits, this is most often the feeling of satisfaction (dopamine rush) when successfully completing a task. But sometimes this isn’t enough to act as reinforcement. To battle this, developing a rewards system that works for you can help the habit become more desirable; there’s a reason sticker charts work so well when trying to get children to do certain activities!
The way you talk to yourself can be a massive factor in how successful you are at creating the habit. If you constantly talk negatively about how the habit is going (“I’ll never do it”, “I’m a failure”) then you’re just setting yourself up in a negative cycle. Instead, treat yourself with kindness and remind yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll miss a day, and that’s fine! It’s important to just pick yourself back up and stay on the right track because, ultimately, one missed day is not the end of the world.
Remember that, at the end of the day, you’re creating these habits for you. Healthy habits are great and the long-term effects of integrating them into your life are incredibly positive. If you think that you struggle with study habits, our tutors are great at helping with this! But at the end of the day, any positive changes will have positive effects!