The psychology behind why habits rule our lives (in under 300 words)

Our daily lives are the sum of our habits.

Who we are and what we do is largely dependant on the routines and behaviors we carry out on autopilot every day. As the American neuroscientist and writer, David Eagleman, explains in his book Incognito:

“Brains are in the business of gathering information and steering behavior appropriately. It doesn’t matter whether consciousness is involved in the decision making. And most of the time, it’s not.”

Habits speed up our decision making in much the same way that cycle lanes speed up travel for cyclists. Without cycle lanes, cyclists have to weave in and out of traffic, which is dangerous and slow. Habits form in our brains in search of similar results — helping us arrive at a reward in a quicker and safer manner.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) discovered a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit. This loop consists of cue, routine, and reward. Charles Duhigg explains this in The Power of Habit:

“First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.”

If the reward from your routine is positive, you’ll naturally want to repeat it the next time the cue is triggered.
This is an excerpt from a post I wrote for Crew. Check out the full post here.

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