This is the first part of a series of lessons I recently taught my class of 18-25 year olds on the subject of Habits.
The word "habit" comes from a Latin word which means to "hold" or "live in". A habit is some way of acting, which because of repetition becomes a normal part of our lives.
All of us have habits, all kinds of habits. nail biting, knuckle cracking, clicking your nails, chronic coughing, or throat clearing, grinding your teeth, sucking your teeth, procrastination, overspending, swearing, constantly running late… all habits.
regular exercise, daily bible study, 3 healthy meals a day, showering every evening, morning pot of coffee, regular sleep patterns...all habits.
How in shape or out of shape you are? A result of your habits.
How happy or unhappy you are? A result of your habits.
How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits.
How spiritual or unspiritual you are? A direct result of your habits.
What you repeatedly do (i.e. what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray.
Habits are behaviors wired so deeply in our brains that we perform them automatically. This allows you to get up and walk everyday, without having to relearn it every morning...or to follow the same route to work every day without thinking about it, liberating your brain to ponder other things, such as where to go on vacation or what to make for dinner.
However, the brain’s executive command center does not completely relinquish control of habitual behavior. A new study from MIT neuroscientists has found that a small region of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, where most thought and planning occurs, is responsible for moment-by-moment control of which habits are switched on at a given time.
Every habit you have — good or bad — follows the same 3–step pattern.
- Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
- Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
- Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)
Some substances like drugs, alcohol, cigarettes can create physical dependencies. But those cravings only last as long as the substance is in the body.
Here's some examples:
Alcohol stays in your blood about 24 hours.
Cocaine stays in your blood about 12 hours.
Marijuana stays in your blood up to 2 days.
Meth stays in your blood about 24 hours.
Vicodin stays in your blood about 3-4 days.
Now granted, these substances could stay in your saliva and/or on your hair for up to 90 days!!! But they leave the blood in just hours.
What does that really tell us?
Many of the lingering twinges we think are addictive are really behavioral habits asserting themselves. You could crave a cigarette after breakfast a month after your last one NOT because you physically need it, but because you remember vividly the feeling you got when you did it.
Thereby, you are controlled by your brain feeding you the information that -it is time for your habit.
In that case you must attack the behavior which is the habit.
When a study was done on a woman who had changed many of her habits over a one year time period, ie: overeating, smoking, drinking... they found that as she exercised, lost weight and quit smoking, that new brain activity formed around the part of her brain responsible for retaining information regarding habits. Technical name: basal ganglia.
The old activity was still there, but new activity had formed!
I myself used to smoke. I smoked for several years before coming to the Lord. That habit activity is still remembered in my brain to this day. I could easily pick up a cigarette, light it, and inhale and exhale it. I remember exactly how to do it.
But my new Christian walk helped me develop new habits. The old man passed away...new things came to surface. (2 Cor 5:17)
I became a new person with new habits. I read my Bible. I pray. I fast. I go to Church, etc...
Some habits have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as you progress. Choosing to drink more water could in turn cause other healthy habits to evolve.
Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits.
Once you are aware of how a habit works you are halfway through changing one!
The brain can be reprogrammed!
Habits cannot be eradicated but they can be replaced!
(Stay tuned for part 2!)