Are you a creature of habit? The answer is “Yes.” In fact, a Duke University study found that habits are responsible for 45-percent of the choices we make every day. Here’s why: Our brains create habits in order to conserve mental energy. Because the more routine an activity becomes, the less we have to think about it, and the easier it is to do. Experts say that habits are formed in three steps: 

  • First, there’s a trigger that prompts the activity. Like: It’s 12:00 noon, which means lunch. 

  • Then the activity is performed. As in, we head out the door. And if we usually get tacos on Tuesdays, we automatically head to our favorite taco stand on Tuesday. 

  • Finally, there’s a reward, yummy tacos, which tells our brain it’s worth starting the cycle all over again the next time we encounter that trigger. 

According to the book, "The Power of Habit," understanding the “trigger/action/reward” loop makes it easier to break bad habits or form healthy new ones. For example: Let’s say you want to start running in the morning. Your cue might be putting your sneakers next to your bed. And after you run, you need to associate a reward with that action, like recording your distance and calories burned with an online app. After a while, your brain will anticipate that reward and instead of dreading your morning exercise, you’ll simply do it, without thinking. 

And the experts say that's the best way to break a bad habit to eliminate the cue. For example, if you want to stop checking your email every ten minutes, turn off the audible alert. Without the trigger, your brain will be less likely to want the reward, and you’ll be able to work without interruption.