All living beings go through life in relation to their environment and outside influences. They make out the mind of a being and teach them everything it is known to that particular scenario in which it is living. That way from our birth to our death, the organism learns to test its environment and act according to outcomes of a given test. By this process, an organism can attain various likes and dislikes, fears or plainly said – negative behaviors ruled by emotions of the past events. However, we can learn to overcome and get familiar with the process of habitual thinking and learn to form good habits or even remove the bad ones since childhood.
How habits are formed?
We know that since our births we have been conditioned by ourselves and the environment to act in such a way that we do not hurt ourselves. From the first steps of failure trying to walk by our own, we start to understand the process of self-growth, which takes a form of step by step trial and error methodology. But this example is classified as a major scale habit in habit formation. Habits that belong in a major category can be easily identified and understood because we are aware of them after attaining the habit. For example – any skill you learn is a major good habit for your progress. Major bad habits are smoking, drinking too often, using drugs, eating too many carbohydrates and anything that is unbalanced.
It is much harder to identify the minor habits that take the most part of our own being in this world. The way we act to each little corresponding act of nature, the outcome of our efforts. Everything that we are unaware of can be named in minor habits category. For example – your manners of speech, facial expressions, hating the sun, fear of something invisible, scratching yourself. Every one of those can be noticed in your automatic movements, and you are mostly unaware when you do these minor habits, but they take the most part of your life.
So how are the habits formed? The easiest explanation for that roots in the way living organisms act within this world and environment. At first, we do not have any habits when we are born, but then we try to make little tests. Let’s say you try to touch the cactus, and you were lucky not to touch the spike and be hurt. Your brain registers that it is okay to touch a cactus, and you will do so until one day it will hurt you. Then your brain will be aware that it might be dangerous, but since you were not hurt a few times before, the chance is still low. After a few attempts, you will start understanding which place hurts and which don’t.
This is a mild example of how organisms learn to interact with the environment. But for the habitual process to form, it takes time, not the number of times trying the same thing. To understand this, we have to talk about five senses – taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell. In combination with these senses, we register new information every microsecond while we are alive. But the core principle lives inside your neural network. Every piece of an outcome, positive or negative, is registered inside of it.
The way neural network works is very precise and is in an act with all five senses, which gets the outcome from your act of will, or in other words – your action. It takes repeating of the same thing over and over until you get all the information there could possibly be and then you learn to do it automatically, without aware of doing so. For the major category of habits, you will be aware if you want to, but for the minor category, it is easy to forget when it started or even why you are doing it for many years.
Emotional thinking and relating to the environment
So, when you have formed a lot of habits through your life, it takes different forms of manifestation every day. One of a few major behaviors rooting from your habitual process is emotions and feelings. It takes a strong effort to do one thing when you do not like it, and it creates pressure inside your head. You just do not want to do the laundry, because it is tedious and has always been. One of a few first time you have done laundry, your experience was unrewarding and now you do not even know why you have a negative outlook in the first place.
However, you always know what activity would give you joy and stimulate you for positive effects. Then, while living, you tend to choose to do more of that fun activity and try to do less of a painful one. Even though they both are just activities, without having the good or bad attached to them, the corresponding effects are seen, because you have had something deeper happen to you while doing these activities. There are people who love doing laundry and know how to motivate themselves through negative feeling, thinking about the outcome of a positive fruitful outcome of it.
In balance, we are all habitual organisms, ruled by emotions and feelings towards some things more than the others. And the point is that we do not have to feel that way, it just happened so that we experienced the other side of the outcome instead of the positive one, and that gave us the opinion that we do not like it. Moreover, habitual actions raise habitual emotions and feelings, which makes it even worse.
To understand this and learn how to restructure our neural patterns, we have to separate and retry these activities, while having a positive experience together. For example – listening to your favorite playlist while doing dishes. Or when you have cold hands, use the dishwashing for warmth. There are always some things you can combine while doing anything you do not like, with positive experiences. That way you will be able to act on your emotions and feelings and reform a little of your bad ones towards the chore or other unwanted activity.
3% in control, 97% automatic
The idea that we are totally not in control of our lives and follow the fully automatic model of reality can be a very real problem to the act of free will. Free will as we know it would change its form and it means that the base premise of its existence is an illusion, and we think that we have it, but we do not. We can explain this idea with two models of reality, one is the gnostic concept of consciousness and the other states that our decisions are ruled by the hormones and bacteria.
Gnostic model of consciousness
Simply said this model states that every individual human being has only 3 percent of the conscious light inside of our being, whereas the remaining 97 percent is unconscious. We only have so little effects to change our lives or direction of our lives that it is hard to comprehend the fact that the remaining 97 percent consists of all the outside world.
In other words, our consciousness is like a ship in an ocean, where we can only steer the wheel a little into one direction or the other. While we are 7 billion people with only that small amount of consciousness, everyone is steering their wheels, trying to do something out of their lives, but the remaining 97 percent controls the ocean. Where it decides to go, it takes thousands of people with it, and in the process, we relate to each other, through work, problems, every other journey in life.
This model follows the premise proposed by Carl Jung, that the collective unconscious is the sum of all of the invisible parts of human minds, and the visible is only a few percents through which the invisible manifests itself. So to change the outside of the world would mean, to change the inside of the total mass of humanity. And we cannot change anything, because we are inside of it. So to speak, we can only do what we are allowed to do by the higher energies or archetypes that embody us during this life.
Hormone and bacteria model
The bacteria and hormone model is easier to understand and it is more updated towards the view of modern scientists. It has been researched that human beings are driven by emotions, feelings, habits. Those three arise from the general feeling of our hormones and imbalance in the hormones. When we have the imbalance, our feelings change, our direction and overall emotions change.
That is because our pursuit and direction in life, what we choose to do and what we want to do directly corresponds to three main hormones: dopamine, serotonin, melatonin, and many other ones responsible for our feelings and motives in life. We can say that we want one thing, but hormones do not feel stimulated enough to do it, so we feel negative about a certain activity and it feels like we are going against ourselves. When in reality, it is hormones that dictate what we really want, and we are not even aware of this.
Let’s say you want ice cream, but that is not you who wants ice cream, but hormones seek stimulation and are prone to getting something from a category of carbohydrates with certain ingredients. Hormones affect your choices and what you want because these are the only processes that give you pleasure when you do something. When a certain hormone is worn out for a moment, then you feel a little down, might even feel depressive because you overstimulate your senses and hormones, they have to take time to regenerate.
Other processes accompanied by hormones are bacteria. There are an uncountable amount of bacteria living on us, and the harmony between them and you dictate your overall feeling of the body. If bacteria are fighting, or are hungry, you will have to eat a certain food or exercise more, even change the environment according to bacteria. The thing is that it is hard to know if what you want is really what you want. Ir might be the habit of your past, bacteria or hormone prone to overtaking your mind to some extent, which drives you towards one thing over the other.
Neural Structure of The Mind
How we deal with the situation directs the way the neural network is programmed. Since everyone reading this article has lived at least a few years until now, it is a fact that you have formed a lot of habits already. But understanding how to change them is very important if you want to reprogram your mind. There are a few ways, some work better than the other, so it is as follows.
First one is hypnotherapy or just an affirmation technique. This works for some people, but not for everyone. When you lay in bed while sleeping, your conscious mind drifts to sleep and then you will have to turn on the hypnotherapy, or affirmation recording from the internet. This will repeat the same words and ideas to your subconscious mind and you will reprogram some of your daily thought processes.
Let’s say you repeat the recording of becoming more wealthy, so it will tend to speak to you that you are already rich, money comes without much effort to you. In such words, you will awaken more ready to receive the wealth from the outside world, and if you do so in the next days, it will feed the mind loop so you will believe it more, and listen to more of these recordings. It is easy to understand – you get more of what you have right now. This is the way hypnotherapy or affirmations work. But it has to work in the first few weeks for you to not give up.
Second works for everyone and takes a huge amount of your will and inner strength. The process goes like this. You are sitting over a desk and suddenly you get the impulse of having a cake which is sitting in a fridge. For the people who are weaker and have formed a strong habit attached to emotions and feelings, they will just stand up and go over a fridge to take a slice and eat some of that cake. The key is to catch the impulse and really ask yourself do you want that cake, or it is your hormones, emotions, bacteria, habitual thinking that wants that cake. Haven’t you eaten something a few minutes ago?
Interesting thing is that human beings used to hunt for weeks let’s say, and they managed to get a boar. They would cook it and eat it all at once because if they did not, the boar would rot. Then they would not eat until the next successful hunt, and it was perfectly fine to eat a lot in one day and fast for a few next days. It is not unhealthy to not eat regularly, we have just formed the habit to eat a few times a day because it is easier to manage. The bad thing is, that sugary products used to be a very rare occasion, so it made sense to eat them all at once and store unused carbohydrates in your body fat for long periods of survival. But now people consume so many of them and the way our jobs have changed makes no sense in storing so many carbs at once.
The same goes for smoking, alcohol, actually any addiction in life. It is very hard to say no against your whole being because these habits are very strong and you just think out of the reasons why you should do that thing, why bother stopping yourself. You get what you want, you think, but that is not the right way to deal with habits. So how does this work you might want to know?
Forming New Habits and Removing Unwanted Ones
Neural network forms a habit and removes a habit through approximately 40 days cycle of repetition. If you are used to one said activity, for example taking naps, or smoking it is not hard to remove the habit once you are aware of how the brain works. Since you have been doing that activity for much longer than 40 days, it is strongly attached to your everyday life, and you feel the full emotions following the habitual activity feeding the loop of repeating over and over again. The point is to be aware of your wants and needs.
When you catch an impulse to take a cigarette and smoke, it is simply a test for your neural network. If you are used to smoking every hour, it will send you a test every hour. Once you consciously say no to that one, it will send you another in approximately one hour again. Just say no, it is hard in essence, but easy once you get used to refusing your hormones dictate your life. After a week, these tests will become more spaced out, and close to a 40th day, the brain will stop sending you tests. It will forget the feeling of smoking and will de-attach itself from repeating the cycle.
So to say, everything you want, everything you are prone to do habitually, can be removed by simply understanding how these tests work. 40 days for anything to remove, and the same works if you want to form a new habit. Want to start going to the gym, but you don’t feel like going? Try twice a week, forcefully at first, build your testosterone in two weeks, then it will form a habit of going to the gym. After 40+ days of going to the gym, it will be hard not to go because you will want that stimulation for your hormones.
So there is no magic in that, that is why there are so many common guidebooks on millionaire habits, famous athletes routine books, etc. It is mainly because we are all human, but we only differ in our choice of life, because we have formed different habits and lived in a different environment unaware of the actions of our neural networks and habits belonging to a minor habitual category.
Want to learn to identify habitual thinking and to observe yourself better daily? Read this article, especially the meditation part. Meditation allows you to learn self-observation and gradually notice what you really do as a conscious human being, from what do automatically as a slave to your hormones and the world around you.