CogniFit's Science blog: Forming New Habits Is Intensive Brain Training

Forming New Habits Is Intensive Brain Training

The Human Being is an animal of habits, of routines and behaviors that are learnt over time. Habits are a part of every one's day, most of them are so deeply connected to each person, that they easily become unnoticed and require no effort to perform. As a consequence, our "lazy" brain is ready to accept actions that have been done before, and are therefore known.

However, the same "lazy" brain shows resistance to what's new and represents a change to the previous savoir-faire. Overcoming this barrier is the art of creating new habits.

Habit Formation has been for long studied in the consumer products and services world. While innovation and success are deeply linked, badly executed innovation is a source of failure. In fact, having in mind that over 80% of all the new products launched in the market, fail within the first 3 years, it isn't hard to discover that one considerable percentage of those are linked to a lack of knowledge on how new habits are formed, and what needs to happen for a new product or service demanding new habits to succeed. It seems easy... but it's really not! Innovation is really a risk, and societies open to innovation deserve nothing but praise.

It is a very hard exercise to create rules about habits formation, which can vary so much. But overall, and focusing on new products and services that change the way we live and do things, there are essentially 5 principles for an effective new habit formation, and they need to co-exist to make it possible to overcome the barriers our brain creates for ourselves. This topic calls for a further digging, but for the time being we’ll discuss the surface of habit formation.

1. Reduce barriers to habit formation at each adoption stage: the adoption may be quicker or slower, but in order to thrive it needs to be ensured the new habit is easy and successful. For example, an intensive focus in education on how to use and how to seize the new habit is always a good way to start.

2. Provide a link to the familiar: the new habit is more likely to be successful if it is tied to an existing behavior or habit. In other words, the distance from the current accepted habits to the new ones is a good starting point to determine how successful it will be.

3. Encourage habit frequency so the individual can practice the new habit: providing positive reinforcement, creating incentives for continuous usage, providing ideas for different usage occasions. All these actions will contribute to the same direction, which is to make sure the habit gets quickly into the hands of the individual and becomes… normal.

4. Actively engage the individual in the desired behavior change: encourage active involvement and participation of new habit in the change process, obtain a commitment, encourage storytelling

5. Provide social reinforcement/support for the new habit: create the impression that the new behavior is the norm, involve influencers to adopt the new habit.

Although these principles may be read as manipulation, they are indeed part of our everyday lives. We all see examples of these every day and we adopt new habits without even realizing we are doing so. But the effect it has on our brains is immense, and constitutes indeed another form of healthy brain training contributing to the vitality of our brain.

Have you noticed how much the young generations are eager to adopt what’s new and to change the way they live and do things? Maybe forcing ourselves to change the habits once in a while wouldn’t be that bad, instead of sticking to doing everything the way we’ve always done. Free advice.