The Science of Making & Breaking Habits | Huberman Lab Podcast #53

The Science of Habit Formation and Breaking.

1970-02-12T06:28:20.000Z

🌰 Wisdom in a Nutshell

Essential insights distilled from the video.

  1. Understanding habit formation and breaking can lead to effective behavioral change.
  2. Habits are learned behaviors formed through neuroplasticity, aiming for automaticity.
  3. Understanding habits and limbic friction can help you form new habits and break unwanted ones.
  4. Visualizing habit steps and moving them around can solidify their formation.
  5. Task bracketing and reward prediction error can enhance habit formation.
  6. Understanding neurochemical states can aid habit formation.
  7. day system for building and testing new habits.
  8. Break bad habits by conscious awareness, positive habits, and self-imposed reminders.


πŸ“š Introduction

In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating world of habit formation and breaking, delving into the biological and psychological factors that influence our habits. We will uncover the distinction between immediate goal-based and identity-based habits, and learn about effective programs for forming and breaking habits. Additionally, we will discuss the importance of context dependence, limbic friction, and procedural memory in habit formation. Finally, we will discover the power of task bracketing and the 21-day habit system, as well as strategies for breaking bad habits.


πŸ” Wisdom Unpacked

Delving deeper into the key ideas.

1. Understanding habit formation and breaking can lead to effective behavioral change.

Habits, both immediate goal-based and identity-based, are reflexive actions that organize our behavior. However, not all habits serve us well. Habit formation and breaking involve biological and psychological factors, with certain habits being harder to form and break due to neural circuits and the formation of new connections in the brain. Understanding the distinction between these two types of habits is crucial for effective habit formation and breaking. There are two specific types of habit formation and breaking programs, grounded in neuroscience and psychology, that can be applied at any time, not just during New Year's resolutions. These programs involve dividing the day into three phases and tackling specific habits at each phase, as well as engaging in six new habits per day for 21 days and assessing if they have been formed. These programs can be found in the Huberman Lab podcast and newsletter, which also includes practical tools and previous newsletters on topics like sleep and neuroplasticity.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Introducing Habits; New ProgramsπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Goal-Based Habits vs. Identity-Based HabitsπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Conclusion & SynthesisπŸŽ₯πŸ“„


2. Habits are learned behaviors formed through neuroplasticity, aiming for automaticity.

Habits are learned behaviors that make up a significant portion of our waking behavior, with up to 70% of our actions being habitual. They are not always conscious and are formed through a process of learning and neuroplasticity, where our nervous system changes in response to experience, forming new neural circuits and pathways. The goal of forming habits is to reach automaticity, where neural circuits can perform them automatically, reducing mental and physical effort. However, the scientific literature on how the nervous system learns and engages in neuroplasticity can provide a more effective approach to habit formation, maintenance, and breaking habits.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Habits versus Reflexes, Learning, NeuroplasticityπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
AutomaticityπŸŽ₯πŸ“„


3. Understanding habits and limbic friction can help you form new habits and break unwanted ones.

Habits are deeply ingrained in our daily routines and can be measured by two criteria: context dependence and limbic friction. Context dependence refers to how consistent a habit is across different environments, while limbic friction is the amount of conscious effort required to perform a habit. Understanding these two aspects can help you evaluate the strength of your habits and determine how deeply they are embedded in your nervous system. Linchpin habits, which are certain habits that make other habits easier to execute, can control and bias the likelihood of performing other habits. To identify which habits are easy or hard for you to perform, think about the concepts of identity-based and goal-based habits, as well as the time it takes to adopt different habits. The time it takes to form a habit varies from person to person and can range from 18 to 254 days. The specific behavior being studied in the study was taking walks after dinner, which can have health benefits. Some people formed the habit in 18 days, while others took 254 days. The concept of limbic friction is introduced, which refers to the strain required to overcome states of anxiety or laziness. Limbic friction is related to the autonomic nervous system and the effort needed to engage in a behavior. Measuring limbic friction can help determine the likelihood of forming a new habit or breaking an unwanted habit.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
How Long It (Really) Takes to Form a Habit; Limbic-FrictionπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Linchpin HabitsπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Mapping Your Habits; Habit Strength, Context-DependenceπŸŽ₯πŸ“„


4. Visualizing habit steps and moving them around can solidify their formation.

The concept of procedural memory, a tool from research psychology, involves visualizing the specific steps required to perform a new habit, reducing the likelihood of procrastination and increasing the likelihood of regular habit performance. This is achieved by shifting the brain towards a mindset of doing things in a particular sequence, which is facilitated by the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying procedural memory. These mechanisms involve heavy and learning, where neurons that fire together strengthen their connections, making it easier to perform the habit. To adopt and maintain a habit, it's important to step through the procedure of performing the habit, which can help shift the nervous system towards a higher likelihood of returning to the habit. Moving the habit around can actually be beneficial as it helps achieve context independence, indicating that the habit has formed and can be performed in any context.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Tool 1: Applying Procedural Memory VisualizationsπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Hebbian Learning, NMDA receptorsπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Habit FlexibilityπŸŽ₯πŸ“„


5. Task bracketing and reward prediction error can enhance habit formation.

Task bracketing, a process that involves setting a neural imprint for the beginning and end of a habit, can help in acquiring and sticking to new habits. This is achieved by positively anticipating the onset and offset of the habit and rewarding oneself for the entire experience. This process, associated with the reward prediction error system, can increase motivation and energy, making the habit more reflexive and context-independent. The key is to find what works for you, as there are various systems for habit formation.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Tool 2: Task Bracketing; Dorsolateral StriatumπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Should We Reward Ourselves? How? When? When NOT to.πŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Tool 4: β€œDopamine Spotlighting” & Task BracketingπŸŽ₯πŸ“„


6. Understanding neurochemical states can aid habit formation.

Understanding the neurochemical states associated with different times of the day can help in forming and consolidating habits. The day can be divided into three phases: phase one (zero to eight hours after waking) for alert and focused activities, phase two (nine to 14 hours after waking) for relaxing activities, and phase three (16 to 24 hours after waking) for neuroplasticity and consolidation. Task bracketing, placing habits at specific times, can leverage these states to support habit formation. Activities like NSDR, heat and sauna, and ashwagandha can further support relaxation and improve sleep quality. It's important to avoid caffeine and bright light during phase three for better sleep.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
States of Mind, Not Scheduling Time Predicts Habit StrengthπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Tool 3: Phase-Based Habit Plan: Phase 1πŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Tool 3: Phase-Based Habit Plan: Phase 2πŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Tool 3: Phase-Based Habit Plan: Phase 3πŸŽ₯πŸ“„


7. day system for building and testing new habits.

A 21-day system is proposed for building and testing new habits. It involves setting out to perform six new habits per day for 21 days, with the expectation of completing four to five habits per day. If a day is missed, there is no punishment, and the next day, the routine is resumed. The system also involves chunking the 21 days into two-day bins, where the habits are practiced for two days and then reset. After 21 days, the focus shifts to maintaining the learned habits and assessing their persistence. This system allows for the evaluation of whether new habits can be added and provides a framework for continuous improvement.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Tool 5: The 21-Day Habit Installation & Testing SystemπŸŽ₯πŸ“„


8. Break bad habits by conscious awareness, positive habits, and self-imposed reminders.

Breaking bad habits, especially addictive ones, requires a comprehensive approach that includes stress reduction, good sleep, quality nutrition, and positive routines. Long term potentiation, a process that strengthens neural connections, can be used to break habits by activating neuron A without activating neuron B within a specific time window. This can be done by creating a reward or punishment system or by measuring and tracking behaviors. However, these reminders need to be monitored and self-imposed to be effective. The key to breaking habits is to bring conscious awareness to the period immediately after the bad habit execution and engage in a different positive habit immediately after. This approach weakens the likelihood of the bad habit by inserting positive behaviors. It's important to choose positive behaviors that are easy to execute and tack them on to the bad habit. This simple approach can lead to a change in the initiation of the bad habit or even prevent it altogether.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Breaking Habits: Long-Term (Synaptic) DepressionπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Notifications Don’t WorkπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Tool 6: Break Bad Habits with Post-Bad-Habit β€œPositive Cargo”πŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Addictions as Habits: https://hubermanlab.com/dr-anna-lembke-understanding-and-treating-addiction/πŸŽ₯πŸ“„



πŸ’‘ Actionable Wisdom

Transformative tips to apply and remember.

To apply the insights from this blog post to your daily life, start by identifying one habit you would like to form or break. Use the 21-day habit system to practice the new habit consistently for 21 days, focusing on task bracketing and leveraging the neurochemical states of the day. Additionally, apply the technique of breaking bad habits by consciously engaging in a positive behavior immediately after the execution of the unwanted habit. Monitor your progress and make adjustments as needed. Remember, habits are powerful tools for shaping our lives, and with the right knowledge and strategies, you can create positive and lasting changes.


πŸ“½οΈ Source & Acknowledgment

Link to the source video.

This post summarizes Andrew Huberman's YouTube video titled "The Science of Making & Breaking Habits | Huberman Lab Podcast #53". All credit goes to the original creator. Wisdom In a Nutshell aims to provide you with key insights from top self-improvement videos, fostering personal growth. We strongly encourage you to watch the full video for a deeper understanding and to support the creator.


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