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  • Writer's pictureMAD Staff

The Science Behind Our Habits

Eric C. Bringas, MS, PES

Head Coach, Director of Sports Science & Technology



Eric Bringas: The Science Behind Our Habits

What are habits?

To understand this question we must know that habits are a series of decisions made on a daily basis. And that these daily decisions which can be physical, mental, or emotional responses are called routines. Some examples of a daily routine are waking up in the morning, exercising, eating, and drinking water.

"The Habit Loop"

When habits are being studied the primary focus is to first inspect the routine, but this can be misleading. Neurologists instead study a 3 step process called The Habit Loop. The Habit Loop begins with a “Cue” which kickstarts the brain into determining which habit to use. Once the habit is determined a “Routine” is now in place. As the “Routine” comes to an end the loop then finishes at “Reward”. During the “Reward” this is where the brain determines if this loop is worth remembering for future use. At completion of the loop a habit is either formed or forgotten.

Using The Habit Loop model researchers studied the brain activity of rats performing the same task over 150 times. At the conclusion of their study the researchers discovered that during the “Cue” and “Reward” phase brain activity was at a heightened level. And during the “Routine” brain activity actually dropped so low it can be compared to the same level as being asleep.

How to put The Habit Loop into use?

A great example to start off with is “Breathe & BE”. This very simple exercise can be very hard to master, but as a daily practice you can find this habit to be very beneficial to your mindfulness and overall well-being.

  1. CUE - Physical, mental, or emotional stress

  2. ROUTINE - Breathe & Be to alleviate stressors. Practicing this routine may lower heightened levels of brain activity allowing for a greater ability to focus and refocus.

  3. REWARD - With continual successful practice “Breathe & BE” may become a conditioned response leading to a higher tolerance for stress.

Recommended Video List:

The Power of Habit: Charles Duhigg at TEDxTeachersCollege (Click Here)

Netflix: The Mind Explained (Click Here)

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