Today, we will discover the evidence, power and influence of Habits, and how it can improve your health and performance.
Why is it so important to correct our movements by changing our biomechanical habit?
In a none creepy way, I have always been curious about human behavior and why we do what we do. So naturally I people watch, all the time, sometimes I get caught staring and sure it's pretty damn awkward especially when I am out with friends. But I just can't help it because of how stimulating it is to my mind. My focus always has been on observing people doing what they do in the real world. That means; while driving their cars, working from home or the office, cooking, exercising, SQUATTING, using mobile devices, walking, running, and morning rituals. After many years of casual and academic observations of the human behavior and its biomechanical movements, I found patterns that can be linked to chronic pain and musculoskeletal abnormalities. I call these patterns "habitual reinforcing factors" to mobility and musculoskeletal abnormalities. As humans, the brain works in such a unique way that once we identify these patterns, we can cognitively change them. You may be thinking "Dude that's what chiropractors do by skeletal manipulation!" But I'm not just talking about adjustments, I'm talking about the implementation of cognitive behavioral training (training the body's habitual structure) in combination with evidence-based therapeutic exercises and modalities (cognomotor training). That is the solution!! That's how you rectify the injury from the root. While simultaneously incorporating motor learning/behavioral exercises, we should apply habitual repetition to change poor mechanical and physical habits. Some may read this and think it's crazy, but this is a luxury that my colleagues in the rehabilitation and most fitness industries do not have.
Alright, I'm chasing a rabbit to get to this point...lets discover the evidence, power, and influence of Habits.
Habits - learned actions that are triggered automatically when we encounter the situation in which we’ve repeatedly done.
Habituation - ‘getting use’ to something.
Habit formation - the formation of a response elicited automatically by an associated situation.
A really cool story, where it at started!
The study of Henry Molaison (H.M) revolutionized our understanding of human motor skill learning. H.M suffered from severe memory loss and was completely unable to form new long- term memories of new events or new semantic knowledge (1). Corkin tested H.M on three motor learning tasks and demonstrated full motor learning abilities in all of them. Experiments involving repetition priming (doing a physical task over and over again) underscored H.M.’s ability to acquire implicit (non-conscious) memories (1). These findings provide evidence that repetition priming relies on different neural structures and stores memory of skills in a squash ball sized lump of tissue called THE BASIL GANGLIA.
How do we form physical habits?
We know that habits are formed through a process called ‘context-dependent repetition’ (1). For example, I arrive home each evening after work and leave my keys in random places (that's how I lose them). However, If I start leaving them in one particular spot (like inside the Buddha bowl by the door) consistently every time I come home for a given time, a mental link would form between the context (getting home) and my response to that context (placing my keys in the Buddha bowl). Each time I subsequently do this in response to getting home, the link strengthens, to the point that getting home comes to prompt me to drop my keys in the Buddha bowl (habitually) and without much prior thought (4). Walla, a habit has formed.
Habits are mentally efficient
the automation of frequent behaviors allows us to conserve the mental resources that we would otherwise use to monitor and control these behaviors and deploy them on more difficult or novel tasks. Habits are likely to persist over time; because they are automatic and so do not rely on conscious thought, memory or willpower. Beleave it or not, there is a growing interest in sports and athletic performance amongst the elite. The role of ‘habits’ has been shown to sustain better athletic movement and performance (2), just ask Michael Phillips. Furthermore, it has been suggested that our self-image and our habits tend to go hand-in-hand (3).
How many days does it take to form a new habit?
For some, it might take just a few days, and others 84 days (2). Th key is how well the participants are being cued and rewarded. Feedback plays an important role.
According to Dr. Gardner and his colleagues (2012), there are variations in how strong a new habit can form. They designed and used a 42 point strength scale system that suggested, for some, habit strength peaked and dropped below half way for others. Some behaviors form strong habits quicker, and some don’t (4).
- simple behaviors (e.g. drinking a glass of water)
- more complex behaviors (e.g. doing 50 air-squats with flawless mechanics)
Finally, goals should be planned per-individual... in that people differ in how quickly and strongly they form habits.
(1) Corkin, S. (2002). "What's new with the amnesic patient H.M.?". Nature Reviews Neuroscience 3 (2): 153–160. doi:10.1038/nrn726. PMID 11836523.
(2) Lally, P., Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 998-1009. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.674/abstract)
(3) Maltz, M. (1960) Psycho-cybernetics. NJ: Prentice-Hall. Change one and you will automatically change the other.’ (p108)
(4) Pen D Gardner. (2012). Busting the 21 days habit formation myth. UCLA Psychology Department. http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/hbrc/2012/06/29/busting-the-21-days-habit-formation-myth/
Picture was obtained from www.medicalobserver.com.