Discover more from The Mind, Brain, Body Digest
Habit 101 Part 3: Creation 🧠
Installing new habits into your life (10min read)
What is habit creation?
Limbic Friction & Context-dependence
What habits should I start with?!
Habit Creation Tools
The 21-Day Method
Focused Vision Method
Beliefs & Habits
Welcome back to the 3rd installment of our Habit 101 series. Today is all about habit creation or what I sometimes refer to as “Starts.”
What is Habit Creation?
Thus far, we’ve talked abstractly about habits, and what they are but not about where they form in our brain!
The Hippocampus is the area of our brain that is responsible for lots of things, but memory is its top priority.
When we start a new habit, routine, or behavior, this is the part of the brain that is changing and growing. It is one of 2 areas in our brain where new nerve cells can grow.
It starts by creating a baby memory that represents the pattern of neurons that fired together when you performed the new habit or behavior, and it starts to wire them together to make it easier to perform later.
These baby memories are what allow us to learn new things, like habits, throughout our entire lives.
After we’ve performed this new habit or behavior enough times, the neural pattern that represents the habit is moved into our Neocortex for long-term storage.
This is an oversimplification of this process that makes it seem much easier than it is in reality!
If you’ve ever tried to start a new habit & failed, you know what I mean.
Limbic Friction & Context-Dependence
What makes creating a new habit so hard at first is something called “Limbic Friction.”
Limbic friction is that feeling you get in the morning when you really want to hit the snooze button, even though you’re trying to wake up earlier.
It’s generally accompanied by lots of little excuses like, “Just 5 more mins.”
It is also this feeling that creates the Valley of Despair we talked about in Part 1 of this series.
If you can overcome the initial limbic friction you feel when starting a new habit & beat this valley, it becomes weaker & weaker over time.
For example, I’d guess you don’t have to fight yourself very hard to brush your teeth. You just do it without thinking about it.
I would also guess that it doesn’t matter where you are or what time it is, if you haven’t brushed your teeth for the day, you don’t have to convince yourself to do so, you just do it!
This kind of behavior or habit has not only beaten limbic friction but it’s become context-independent as well.
This means it doesn’t matter what time of day, or where you are, it doesn’t take much effort or mental anguish to perform the habit.
This is the best metric for measuring the formation of a new habit.
How much limbic friction do you feel when you go to perform the habit, and is it context-independent?
These two things happen as the nerve cells in your Hippocampus we talked about earlier, move further into your Neocortex.
Memories & habits inside our Hippocampus are more dependent on the context we are performing them because we have cells called “place cells” & “grid cells” that create a 3D grid map of the world.
These maps help us remember things in relation to their spatial location & orientation in space.
While these cells remain in our Hippocampus in the early stages of habit creation, performing the habit at the same time & place helps us decrease limbic friction.
Over time, as more of these cells move into our Neocortex it becomes less and less important to perform the habit at the same time & place because our Neocortex doesn’t have the same kind of place & grid cells as our Hippocampus does!
Until we get to this place, beating limbic friction is a full-time job, and it’s what most of the tools we will cover today help with.
What Habits Should You Start With?
Before getting too crazy on your habit-creation journey, it’s helpful to stop and ask yourself, what area of my life could I use some new habits in?
We’ve created a checklist to help you answer that question. Check it out below:
It is based on the Heroes Body, which is Rewrite & Rise’s Bottom-Up Approach to Mental/Emotional Wellbeing & Brain Health.
The 6 areas include:
These are the most important areas to have consistent habits & routines in because they lay the foundation in your brain for future habits to be built upon.
Also, if you don’t have habits & routines set up for each of these areas, it’s highly likely that you have some level of brain inflammation.
This is why we also created a brain inflammation quiz for you to find out what level of inflammation you have in your brain.
This inflammation can make limbic friction harder to beat.
After you’ve rated yourself using the checklist above, take a look at what areas have the lowest scores and think about habits you would like to create within them to get started building your foundation ASAP!
Habit Creation Tools
The 21-Day Method
The first tool we will cover can be thought of as the habit of habits.
The goal of this tool is to see what habits naturally stick for you over 21-Days.
Outline 6 new habits you’d like to perform daily for the next 21 days
Only plan to actually complete 4-5 per day
Failing is completely okay, there is no punishment for missing any of the 6 things
Figuring out what you can do consistently is the only goal
Try to stack 2-day chunks together, meaning you hit your habits for 2 days, and then another 2 days, etc for 21 days
After 21 days, stop “trying” and see what sticks out of the 6 habits you started with
Test the ones that stuck, and any new ones for another 21 days
Continue repeating the process
Focused Vision Tool
This tool uses the Neuroscience of vision to help you beat limbic friction.
Your visual system is intricately connected to your Circulatory system, so much so, that the way you focus your eyes/vision can activate your sympathetic nervous system.
When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, it puts us into a state of action and allows us to beat the limbic friction we are feeling towards the habit or behavior we are trying to start.
Visualize or think about the goal or task you want to accomplish
Find 1 focal point around you
Stare at this point for 60sec
Move into action toward your goal right after the 60sec is up
Focusing on 1 single point for a whole minute increases your blood pressure and releases adrenaline into your blood destroying the limbic friction you may have been feeling around the task.
For example, if you’re dreading going to the gym, stand up, find a point on the wall, focus on it for 60sec, and then start getting ready for the gym right after!
Another tool for defeating limbic friction as you’re on the glorious habit creation path is something called Dopamine Spotlighting, otherwise known as Task Bracketing!
This tool uses the neurochemical, Dopamine, to help your release more adrenaline into your blood which stops limbic friction in its tracks.
These two chemicals are released together in our bodies, and by using this process you can increase the amount of dopamine your brain releases in relation to the task or habit at hand.
It does this by bracketing the new habit or behavior with a positive/rewarding mental frame.
Identify the new habit or behavior
Write out the feelings, thoughts, and actions that occur 10-15mins before you have to perform the habit
Visualize/Imagine leaning into the effort it will take to beat the limbic friction that comes up
Write out the feelings, thoughts, and actions that occur 10-15mins after you have performed the habit
Visualize/Imagine the positive feeling you’ll have after you’ve done it. *Don’t lie to yourself, for example, think, “I hate starting, but I LOVE finishing!”*
After you’ve written these things out, use what you’ve written to Visualize/Imagine the whole task bracket framed in this way
Repeat this process for as long as you feel a significant amount of limbic friction when performing this new habit or behavior.
This will allow you to overcome the friction, and create a context-independent habit faster!
Habits & Beliefs
Sometimes, even when using tools like these, establishing a habit still eludes us.
This is not uncommon, and you’re not alone!
What’s almost always going on, is there’s a limiting belief in your subconscious mind holding you back.
This is problematic because your subconscious mind is responsible for 95% of your daily behaviors as we’ve talked about before.
This means your conscious mind, or your “Goal Setter” wants to lose weight, or start working out, but a belief in your subconscious mind or your “Goal Getter” is holding you back.
For example, let’s pretend you want to lose weight and start an exercise habit.
So, you think, “I want to lose 25 lbs & start working out.”
However, subconsciously you have the belief that “I am not worthy enough to be healthy.”
This belief then affects your thoughts negatively, making your mind focus on only the memories that prove to you that you aren’t worthy enough to be healthy.
These thoughts make you feel worthless, shame, guilt, hopeless, etc.
These feelings cause you to avoid the actions you need to take to become healthy, like your exercise habit.
By not exercising, you get the same result of not being healthy, which proves the belief that you’re not worthy correct, further reinforcing it in your subconscious, and the negative self-talk & self-sabotaging continue.
This can be a vicious cycle if you don’t know how to escape it.
We don’t have time to cover this today, but if you’d like to find out what limiting beliefs may be holding you back from being able to perform the habits you’ve been stuck on, check out our Limiting Beliefs Guide below.
It will help you identify beliefs like the one above that may be holding you back!
I hope you found this series helpful! If there are other topics you would like to learn more about, please email us back and tell us what you want to know more about!
Until next time… Live Heroically! 🧠