How to train your brain to adopt good habits

By Meredith Wood

Habits are powerful, and as an entrepreneur you can teach yourself ways to adopt better habits so you can be successful in both your professional and personal life. By simply using the power of your brain, you can create pathways to new and healthy habits.

By definition, a habit is a series of actions that you learn over time and that are often performed unconsciously. You probably don’t even think about your morning routine anymore: waking up, brushing your teeth, drinking coffee, and so on. Habits help us do things instinctively, and fortunately the brain is able to reorganize neural pathways to adapt to new habits, which is great news! It is entirely possible to create and maintain new, healthy habits.

To get started, what habits do you want to adopt or change? You may want to quit an unwanted habit, turn it into something useful, or create a new habit altogether. Identifying what you want to change or pursue will help you focus on that change.

Once you know what you want to change, figure out why. This is an important step because it can provide motivation and keep you motivated. Start by writing down your reasons for wanting to acquire a particular habit. Will it make you a more productive person? A more conscientious person? Keep the list and refer to it as you work to change your routine.

This is evident from research by European Journal of Social Psychologyit takes 66 days to fully learn a new habit. If you plan to change or adopt a new habit, follow these steps to have the most effective 66 days possible.

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1. Set achievable goals

It’s often tempting to set big goals, but if you start with a small goal, you’re more likely to succeed. If you’re trying to cut back on social media, start with the goal of checking it for just 10 minutes every hour. If you want to eat less junk food, replace 1 snack per day with raw vegetables. You can unconsciously resist a big change; small goals are easier to accept.

2. Avoid bad triggers

Become aware of what triggers a habit you want to stop. Try to eliminate these triggers if possible. If you stress eating chips at work, automatically seeing your desk will trigger your craving for chips after a while. Once you know this, you can stock your refrigerator with a healthy alternative to take with you when you enter your office. If you know you feel tired after work and give up before going to the gym, try switching to morning workouts. By anticipating the trigger of a bad habit, you can figure out how to avoid it.

3. Embrace good signals

You can also use triggers or signals for good. Because forming a habit trains your brain to do something automatically, building a signal will initiate the sequence of actions before it happens. Take a long walk at the same time every day. Drink a glass of water every hour. Turn off your phone at 12:30 every lunch break. By keeping the same order, you follow a sequence and help build a habit. Visual triggers can also work, such as laying out workout clothes on the bed so you can see them when you get home.

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4. Remember that sooner is better

Your motivation and willpower are highest in the morning. Make the morning time to form a new habit (if it happens once a day). If you want to read the news every day, do it before you leave for work. If you want to improve your eating habits, start with breakfast.

5. Convenience

The more time-consuming your activity is, the less likely you are to do it. Get everything ready in advance so you’re prepared when it’s time to take action.

6. Fun

It’s probably not shocking that you’re more likely to stick with something if it’s fun. Make changes in your life or at work as pleasant as possible. If you’re trying to break your dependence on technology, replace it with a game night at home. If you want to exercise during lunch, find a friend to do it with.

7. Track your progress

Whether you use a journal or a phone app, keep track of when you perform the habit. You don’t want to break the momentum, so documentation can help.

8. Reward yourself

Your brain likes to be rewarded, and it’s an important part of forming habits. Building a clear reward at the end of your task can help you reinforce a habit. If you don’t check Facebook during the day, you can find 30 minutes in the evening to binge. If you run 3 miles at lunch, you can have the smoothie you enjoy. Building in a reward system can also help with motivation.

What habits are you going to start today?

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