Автор: Светлана Пилюгина,
Университет практической психологии

How habits are formed

Many things in our daily life we ​​do out of habit, without hesitation, "on autopilot"; motivation is not needed for this. Such automatism of behavior allows us not to strain much where it is possible to do without it.

But habits are not only useful, but also harmful. And if useful makes life easier for us, then the harmful sometimes make it very difficult.

Form can be almost any habit: we gradually get used to everything. But for the formation of different habits, different people need different terms.

Some habit can be formed already on the third day: you watched TV a couple of times during meals, and when you sit down at the table for the third time, your hand will reach for the console: a conditioned reflex has been developed.

To form another habit, or the same, but for another person, it can take several months ... And, by the way, bad habits are formed faster and easier than useful ones)))

The habit is the result of repeated repetition. And their formation is simply a question of perseverance and conscious practice. Aristotle wrote about this: "We are what we constantly do. Perfection, therefore, is not an act, but a habit. "

And, as is usually the case, the path to perfection is not a straight line, but a curve: in the beginning, the process of generating automatism goes faster and then slows down.

The figure shows that, for example, a glass of water in the morning (the blue line of the graph) in a particular person has become a habit in about 20 days. In order that he had the habit of 50 sit-ups in the morning, it took more than 80 days (pink line). The red line of the graph shows the average term of habit formation - 66 days.

Where did the figure 21 come from?

In the 50s of the 20th century, plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz paid attention to the regularity: after plastic surgery, the patient needed about three weeks to get used to his new face, which he saw in the mirror. He also noticed that he himself also took about 21 days to form a new habit.

Maltz wrote about this experience in his book Psycho-Cybernetics: "These and many other frequently observed phenomena, as a rule, show that it takes a minimum of days for the old mental image to dissipate and be replaced by a new one." The book became a bestseller. Since then, she has been quoted many times, gradually forgetting that Maltz wrote in her: "at least 21 days."

The myth quickly took root: 21 days - the term is short enough to inspire, and long enough to be believable. Who will not like the idea of ​​changing their lives in 3 weeks?

In order for the habit to form, you need:

First, the repetition of its repetition: any habit begins with the first step, the act ("sow an act - reap a habit"), repeatedly repeated; we do something day in and day out, sometimes making an effort, and sooner or later it becomes our habit: it makes it easier, it takes less and less effort.

Secondly, positive emotions: in order for a habit to be formed, it must be "backed up" by positive emotions, the process of its formation must be comfortable, it is impossible in conditions of struggle with oneself, prohibitions and restrictions, ie. in conditions of stress.

In stress, it is typical for a person to unconsciously "slide" into habitual behavior. Therefore, while the useful skill is not fixed and new behavior is not habitual, stresses are dangerous "failures": so we throw, just when we start, eat right, or do gymnastics, or run in the morning.

The more difficult a habit, the less pleasure it delivers, the longer it is produced. Than a habit is easier, more efficient and more pleasant - the faster it becomes automatic.

Therefore, our emotional attitude to what we want to make our habit is very important: approval, pleasure, joyful expression, smile. The negative attitude - on the contrary, prevents the formation of a habit, so all your negative, your discontent, irritation must be removed in a timely manner. Fortunately, this is possible: our emotional attitude towards what is happening is what we can change at any moment!

This can serve as an indicator: if we feel irritation, if we begin to scold ourselves or blame ourselves, then we are doing something wrong.

You can think in advance about the system of rewards: make a list of things that give us pleasure and can, therefore, serve as rewards for securing the necessary useful skills.

In the end, it’s not so important how many days you will need to form the necessary habit. Much more important is another: in any case you can do it!