A registered nurse, chiropractor, and acupuncturist explores why habits form and how to break them.
Debut author Heyman draws from her professional experiences to demystify how habits develop and offer strategies to squelch the harmful ones. “Forty to 45 percent of our daily actions are based on habits,” she states in her introduction. Given that so much of human behavior is routine, it’s no wonder habits are hard to break. “The brain is basically lazy,” Heyman explains. “If it has the opportunity to funnel behaviors to a place where they become automatic, requiring little conscious thinking, it will do so in a flash.” Habits begin with a cue that leads to a response followed by a reward. The brain remembers the reward and automates the cycle. Habits streamline life, but they can also result in patterns that jeopardize health. Resolve alone isn’t enough to overcome a bad habit: “Willpower is like a muscle. It loses strength, gets tired and is depleted after overuse.” To change, people must have motivation and readiness. Heyman lays out six different theories on how the former arises and six stages of the latter. She supplements these steps with stories of people who have successfully changed habits like interrupting, compulsive shopping, bingeing, and obsessive Facebook checking. Common threads among those who triumphed include making “s.m.a.r.t.” (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time framed) goals, rewarding oneself, keeping a journal to track victories, and stating objectives in a positive tone. The author delivers plenty of useful advice for sustaining good habits: she advocates a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and meditation. She also touches briefly on spiritual habits, such as prayers and mantras. Heyman emphasizes the importance of awareness, action, and accountability: “The real problem is not ignorance; it’s non-compliance,” she insists. While the author’s tone is affable, providing clear explanations and rendering her key points in boldface or with bullets, this book is less of a step-by-step manual and more of a theoretical buffet. If one has difficulty effecting change, this volume’s plethora of approaches might overwhelm and prevent the kind of commitment required for habit-breaking.
A well-researched, if scattered, guide to making positive changes.