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Habits – Good or Bad?

good habits for EFsWhy did you do that? “I don’t know” is often the response. Sometimes we are on automatic pilot and our actions are the results of a habit. Other times our actions can be the result of a lack of impulse control. What is a habit? A habit is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary” (Source: Dictionary.com). Think about the things you do every day without having to think about them. What would it feel like if you could change just one “bad” habit or could add one “good” habit?

If you are not sure if a habit serves you or not you may want to look closer at it. Monitoring an action or habit is a great way to figure out what the true impact is on you. You would need to be able to measure it. For example, keeping track of how much TV you watch (hours/day) instead of just deciding to “watch less TV.” See the difference?

Good habit or bad habit they both have three things in common. According to Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit, a habit consists of a cue, a routine and a reward. Add in a craving for that reward and you’ve got yourself a habit – whether it is good or bad. To change it you would need to interrupt the cycle. Change the cue (ex. ding of a new email), the routine (checking your phone as you pick it up) or the reward (quick dopamine rush that happens in your brain and makes you feel good when on Facebook). You didn’t start out craving it, but after several times your brain started liking the feeling and ta dah! A habit was formed.

Changing just one habit can have a profound effect on your life. Where to start? Gretchen Rubin, in her book, Better Than Before, suggests that starting with habits that will help strengthen our self-control can serve as the “foundation for forming other good habits.” “They are: sleep, move, eat and drink right and unclutter.” Do you need to create a new habit in one of these categories? Start slow and look at the three parts of the habit (cue, routine and reward) and design an experiment to help you figure out the plan that will work best for you and the way your brain works. Tweak it if it doesn’t work but don’t give up – the long term reward will be worth it.

Now for your kids, they need help establishing habits that serve them. Some examples would be a morning and evening habit of what to do in what order. Often those with ADHD don’t have consistent habits and every day is a “new” routine. This puts extra pressure on their working memory and makes it very brain intensive to think through the steps of what to do next. Help your kids figure out a routine and a reward and then link the cue to something they already do automatically. It is easier to start that way. Other options for kids are homework habits; the habit of using an agenda, backpack habits, studying habits….the list goes on. We can help them take a look at their habits and figure out what is and isn’t serving them so they start the new school year off strong. Check out our Academic Coaching Classes for Middle School and High School.