You seem to be performing it more often than normal! Certainly, that action has become a habit! There are some positive, some negative and a handful of ugly ones!
Can simply be said to be a reoccurring action or behavior that can be performed most times without awareness. A number of research has been made on habits, how they are formed, how to stop them and if they can be used to help improve an individual overall performance.
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Before a habit can be formed, an action must be performed repeatedly in a rather consistent fashion. This consistent repetition creates a series of patterned stimulation of the cerebral cortex, thalamus, limbic system, basal ganglia, brain stem and other parts of the brain involved in cognition.
The brain gets so used to the continuous transmission of same signals over and over again, in such a way that doing the action get progressively easier and your habit is finally formed.
Take for instance
You always set your alarm for 6 am, get up each morning and take a walk along the street and back home. If this goes on consistently for several weeks, it would get to a point when you wouldn’t be needing your alarm anymore as your brain has gotten used to that alertness at 6 am.
A common myth is that habits take 21 days to form, but reports have it that it takes about 10 weeks (up to 66days) to form a new habit after performing the action the first time. However, this can vary from one individual to another and from one action to another. Some individuals have been able to develop a habit in 21days or less, but this is banked on the type of action being performed, ranging from simple to complex.
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Habits can be used to help people engage in positive behaviors. Not all habits are bad, some are somewhat necessary. For instance, a habit of drinking a glass of water every morning is a great way to stay healthy. When this becomes a part of you it is a positive behavior.
The bad and the ugly
In as much as there are positive habits, there are also habits that range from bad to ugly. Bad habits develop in just the same manner as positive habits do. The inability to switch off a certain habit can lead to serious addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Habit and rewards
Most often, habits are developed as a result of constant rewards perceived by the reward centers in the brain. Behavior, whether good or bad, becomes much stronger when you reward it. Take, for instance, eating a lot is not a very good habit, but the reward and satisfaction you get from having all your craving keep your habit going. And continuous habit like this might lead you to an ugly binge eating episode.