Did you know that research says 40 percent of our actions are habits, not conscious decisions?
Habits are defined as behaviors that are repeated frequently and automatically because they have become hardwired into our brains. Generally, they are good things (ie. automatically closing the refrigerator door or driving on the right side of the road). Habit also frees up your brain from the millions of decisions we make every day so we can focus on the important stuff.
But what about those bad habits — lighting up a cigarette when you're feeling bored, heading for the fudge-covered graham crackers whenever you are stressed or going on a shopping spree when you get your paycheck? Can you really stop them?
Yes, says recent research, but it takes a little work and patience. And even though we all think it's a question of willpower, it isn't. It's about changing your environment.
"Habit is learned behavior, and we can't erase things we've learned. But we can replace them more desirable behaviors," says James Claiborn, co-author of The Habit Change Workbook.
(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)