Do you drive the same route to work each morning, have a coffee as soon as you arrive at the office and start the day sifting through your inbox?
Chances are you even wash yourself in the same order in the shower and apply your makeup just as you did the previous day. No wonder they call it a morning routine.
We are creatures of habit – but only if we’re rewarded with something we perceive as positive. No doubt you’ve tried the various routes to work and stick with the one you think is fastest, just as checking your emails as soon as you get to the office seems to be the quickest way to refine the day’s to-do list.
“Our bodies exhibit a preference for habits because of efficiency,” says health psychologist Dr Helen Lindner from the Australian Psychological Society. “If we had to think about everything we did we’d be exhausted.”
So here are a few tips as how to make a change to those bad habits!
1. Identify a positive habit you would like to adopt, and a negative habit you’d like to break.
2. Recognise the context within which you perform the negative habit.
3. Just as you’re about to perform the negative habit, consciously think about the positive habit you’d like to adopt.
4. Replace your negative behaviour with the new positive behaviour.
5. Repeat until the new behaviour becomes automatic (about two months).
The trick is to make positive behaviour you enjoy automatic – something you do without thinking – and negative behaviour a reasoned response – something you think about carefully before doing.
“Habits are adaptive because they’re efficient and only when the habit is something that we want to change does it become problematic,” Dr Corbit says. “The brain has evolved to establish habits because usually they’re helpful.
“There’s usually something we can do to reactivate the goal directed system. It hasn’t been replaced, it’s not that it’s not there, it’s just that the habit system seems to be more dominant.”