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Practical Psychology

If you are curious about habits - from forming habits to getting rid of bad ones to the habits of the rich and famous - you’re in the right place. 

But let’s start with where you are today. How long did you scroll on your phone today? Were you able to go to the gym, eat healthy meals, and save money? It’s okay if the answer is “no.” We all have habits that are part of our regular routine, but we also all have habits that we know we would like in our routine, despite them being just out of reach. 

If you want to change up your entire morning routine or just want to squeeze a better habit into your daily life, I’ve got videos and content made especially for you. Get ready to learn everything you need to know about habits and how to perform them and have a happy, healthy, and successful life. 

What Are Habits? 

Habits are routines and things that we do on a regular basis, some knowingly and some unknowingly. They keep you going when you want to get things done but you are low on motivation. It’s easier to do something if it’s a regular habit.

Interested in taking a deep dive into what makes a habit a habit? This article provides more information about different types of habits and how they work with our brains. 

Examples of Habits, Good and Bad 

Habits look like many things: 

  • Investing $5 weekly
  • Smoking every time you wait for the bus 
  • Picking your skin when you get nervous 
  • Avoiding someone if you anticipate they are going to confront you 
  • Placing your shoes in their proper place when you get home 
  • Cracking your joints
  • Sleeping in
  • Getting up at the same time every day 
  • Choosing to date someone who has shown a few red flags

One habit may work for someone but doesn’t work for you, and that’s okay! In order to pick up the best habits, you have to assess where you are in life and where you want to go. The same idea applies to your finances, career, or relationships.

Habits for Wealth

Do you know how much money you spend each month? What about each week? Do you know how long it will take you to reach millionaire status? Depending on your answers, you may want to explore good habits for wealth. 

These habits can be small, but powerful. You can start by getting into the habit of paying your rent or insurance on time. This small habit avoids any late fees that eat into your account. Or, you could challenge yourself to check your bank account and credit card accounts every morning before you head to work. This reality check may encourage you to brew your own coffee instead of stopping in the line for Starbucks.

Habits for Health 

Maybe money isn’t an object for you. Or, you know that you can’t spend the money that you’ve made if you’re not alive to spend it. Habits for health can also greatly impact your life. In fact, healthy habits can extend your life!

Healthy habits often have to do with what you put in your body and how you move your body, but psychologists know that healthy habits go beyond eating and exercising. Healthy people also meditate, sleep, and do things that allow them to de-stress. 

Habits for Happiness

And then, of course, there are people who are successful at work and maintain a healthy lifestyle but are searching for one more thing: happiness. Happiness can come from relationships, friendships, or just from within. Looking at the habits of happy people can point you in the right direction toward habits and routines that will make you smile more often!

How Habits Can Change Your Life 

We have all seen the lists of habits of successful people. We get so excited to read those lists, but then find ourselves scratching our heads. Why does getting up early make someone successful? How is a to-do list the secret to running a billion-dollar business? Unless you understand the power of habits, these lists seem almost absurd. 

But habits really can change your life. 

Time is money, they really mean that our time has value. The time that you put into improving yourself will determine your returns. If you make it to the gym every day, you are likely going to reach your fitness goals faster than someone who only goes once a week. If you spend your time mindlessly scrolling through your phone instead of studying, going to the gym, or eating healthy meals, you lose a lot of time that you could spend on better habits. 

Habits can help us save time and use our time more wisely. When you have the same morning routine every morning, you don’t have to think too hard about what you’re doing next. You can anticipate how your room needs to be set up or what you can put out the night before to save even more time. 

If you have a regular morning routine, you also can avoid bad habits. You already know what habit is next on your list. There is no room for scrolling, smoking, or resorting to any other bad habits when you have a list of good habits that you need to complete. 

Good habits save you time and money, leaving more room to pursue your larger goals. Bad habits do the exact opposite. 

Think of how much time and money you spend on bad habits. How much money a month do you spend on cigarettes and booze? How much money do you spend on dates that don’t turn into relationships because you’re stuck in bad relationship habits? Depending on how tight of a hold a habit has on you, the answers may be significant. And if you can’t get control over many bad habits, from spending to smoking to picking at your skin, you might find yourself in serious trouble. 

Habits can seriously change your life. They can either put you on the path toward success or the path toward destruction. Fortunately, understanding the power of habits is the first step in choosing the best habits for you. 

How to Create, Maintain, and Stop Habits 

You know what habits are. You probably have a list of habits that you want to add to your daily routine or stop performing entirely. Identifying good and bad habits is not the hardest part of living with habits.

The hardest part of living with habits is creating them, maintaining them, and stopping them entirely. Not all strategies work for all habits, people, or lifestyles, so be sure to take a thorough look through all of the articles on this page that describe how to create habits, how to destroy habits, etc. 

Creating and Maintaining Habits 

Once you have identified a habit that you want to add to your routine, how do you make it a part of your day? One strategy requires that you understand three things:

  • Cue
  • Routine
  • Reward

The cue is the event or behavior that cues your brain to perform the habit. Is it the first of the month? Then it’s time to write the rent check. Is it New Year’s Eve? Then it’s time to write down a list of resolutions. 

Cues do not have to be an annual date or time. They can also be behaviors that are already a part of your routine. In Dr. BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits, he refers to these behaviors as “anchors.” (It’s a great book on creating and sticking to habits - I highly recommend it!) Let these anchors be a “cue” for you to perform your new habit. 

Examples of anchors and habits: 

  • Every time you come inside from walking the dog, you do the dishes.
  • Every time you shut down your work computer at the end of the day, you go for a run.
  • Whenever you finish your coffee, you pour a glass of water 

Pairing a cue with a routine is key to starting a habit. But how do you maintain a habit? You have to pair the routine with a reward. But if you ask a behavioral psychologist about this, they may correct you - instead of a “reward,” you need a “reinforcement.” 

Learning and Encouraging a New Habit

Behaviorists did not conduct experiments on dogs and rats in order to help people stop smoking. Their goals were much larger; they wanted to understand if our behaviors are learned or if they are genetic. The work of behaviorists, much like the work of many psychologists, goes back to nature vs. nurture. 

The answer to that debate is not clear, but what we do know about conditioning and behavior can be applied directly to habits. Behaviorists believed that tying behavior to a reinforcement (also known as a “reward”) will encourage you to continue performing that behavior. Once performing that behavior is second nature to a person, it is a habit that will be hard to break. 

As you set off to add more habits into your daily routine, consider this knowledge. Are you rewarding yourself for performing good behaviors, or are you struggling to perform them just so you can cross them off your list? Is physically crossing a task off your list enough of reinforcement, or do you need something more? 

Dr. BJ Fogg touches on this idea in Tiny Habits.  He calls the “reinforcement” by a different name: Shine. In his book, he describes how Shine should immediately follow the completion of a tiny habit. That shine might be a whoop, a dance, a high-five in the mirror, or anything that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy instead. This Shine, according to behaviorists, increases the likelihood that the behavior will be performed again. We all like feeling great! 

Whether you call it Shine or a reward, consider what happens after you complete the habit that you want in your routine. How will you celebrate? How will you ensure that you perform the behavior again? Your reinforcement should not interfere with your overall goals (if you want to save money, spending money may not be the best form of reinforcement), but should keep you on the path toward the success you envision for yourself. 

Do You Have Bad Habits? 

Bad habits range from smoking cigarettes to spending too much money to ghosting dates who could make potential partners. But even when you understand that a habit is a bad habit, dropping that habit is often harder than picking up a great habit! 

Fortunately, psychologists have spent decades looking at different strategies for stopping a habit that is unhealthy or unsafe. One of my favorite strategies is to replace a bad habit with a good habit. Have you ever met someone who quit cigarettes by eating sunflower seeds or even going for a run? You can feed two birds with one hand with this strategy!

We can also look to behaviorists to learn how to get rid of a bad habit. Behaviorists, from Ivan Pavlov to BF Skinner, spent their careers studying the ways that reinforcement, punishment, and conditioning lead to good and bad habits. Understanding the relationship between stimuli and behaviors may just be the key to starting good habits and getting rid of bad habits.

Productivity and Habits 

There is certainly a lot to learn about habits. You may feel prepared to start adding a new habit into your routine right now. Try this out, and once you get the hang of creating habits, revisit these pages for more tips on productivity.

That’s right. Habits are a piece of the larger productivity puzzle. Do you want to get a lot done in a shorter amount of time? You need to be productive. Habits help you stay productive, but if you have a chaotic schedule, you may need more than just habits to help you cross off every item on your to-do list. 

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2021, December). Habits. Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/habits/.

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