1. Half of the time you are awake is spent with automatic behaviours
This study from Duke University in 2006 found that up to 45% of all our daily behaviours are automatic.
2. Habits are a way for your brain to save energy.
Your brain is the most efficient processor on the planet. Your brain makes up only 2% of your total mass, but it consumes 25% of all the oxygen you inhale.
Automating behaviours in the form of habits is one of the best ways to save energy.
3. Habits are even tougher to break than you thought — way tougher
Sometimes I look at people who smoke and think: Does he have no clue how short life is? How can I take him even seriously, if he’s smoking?”
The reason habits are so tough to break lies in the structure of your brain. Based on evolution, the newer the parts of the brain are further away from the centre of the brain, . Your prefrontal cortex, where all complex thinking is done, is right behind your forehead.
Here’s where the basal ganglia is, the part of the brain where habits are formed. This little lump of tissue with the size of a golf ball has been around for a few thousand years.
It already made sure the caveman ancestor of your great-grandfather kept breathing, swallowing and running away from a saber tooth tiger. If that’s the kind of stuff that’s anchored in your basal ganglia, then you can imagine it would be fairly hard to get it out of there again.
It’s no wonder you can’t just quit smoking from one day to the next.
4. Habits are a spiritual thing — you better believe it
The reason why AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is so efficient and has boasted about 2 million members each year, for the past 25 years, is surely not it’s 12-step program.
Alcohol addiction is a serious medical condition, people institutionalize themselves to get rid of it.
What fuels the success of AA is belief. Sometime during that first meeting, every newcomer looks around and starts thinking: “If it worked for that guy over there, why not for me?”
Getting together, sharing feelings and rallying together creates a common belief among the group that things can change. And to top it all off: belief works on top of belief.
Studies have shown that while no particular religion helped AA individuals reach sobriety faster, having any sort of faith at all made a huge difference over atheists and agnostics.
5. One keystone habit can change everything
Once we go further down the “habit hole”, we usually find dozens of things we want to change. Quit biting nails, stop drinking, don’t eat out so much and start running. This is neither efficient, nor even necessary.
It’s enough for you to change one habit, it just has to be the right one. Duhigg describes these as keystone habits, which cause a positive ripple effect and automatically infer changes in other areas.
You don’t have to start big, but you have to start with the right habit.