Archive for June, 2010

June 18th, 2010

Habit Making and Breaking, Part 1: What is a Habit?

By Kyle Morich

The press is quick to throw around the word ‘habit’ these days, without much pause for what a habit really is.  Habit is used as a pejorative lament about our inability to change our health or financial actions, like with smoking, eating junk food, or using credit cards.  At the same time, it’s also used as a brilliant panacea for those very same problems.  These same articles disparaging or extolling the influence of habits in our lives tend to omit any strategies for breaking or building these habitual behaviors beyond general mantras of “avoid it” or “do it a lot for three weeks.”

So what is a habit?  By colloquial usage, a habit is something you do automatically, without thinking consciously.  But scientifically, it is much more specific than that.  A habit is an unconscious behavior that has four key elements:  a context, repetition, reinforcement, and cues. (more…)