What is Habit ?

Payal Sharma
3 min readJun 8, 2021

something that you do often and almost without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop doing.

Habit, in psychology, any regularly repeated behaviour that requires little or no thought and is learned rather than innate. A habit — which can be part of any activity, ranging from eating and sleeping to thinking and reacting — is developed through reinforcement and repetition.

The Habit Loop. “The Habit Loop is a neurological loop that governs any habit. The habit loop consists of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Understanding these elements can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form better ones.” —


Most habits begin as intentional, goal-directed behavior. For instance, a young child may be instructed by their parent to wash their hands before dinner. At first, the child may only wash their hands to get praise from a parent. They may need reminders to do the task before each meal.

Research suggests habits take an average of 66 days to form. But as the washing behavior is repeated, the child will get used to the routine and stop needing reminders. They will wash their hands before meals regardless of whether the parent rewards the behavior or not. At this point, the behavior can be called a habit because it is driven more by context than a concrete reward.

Habit formation can be thought of as making a mental shortcut. At the beginning of the process, the act of washing one’s hands before dinner takes a lot of steps. The child needs to move to the sink, turn on the water, lather on the soap, and then dry their hands off. But as the habit forms, the brain begins to group these steps as one collective “chunk.” In other words, it starts to interpret a four-step process as one simple behavior called hand-washing.

On one hand, habits can save you mental energy. Making decisions takes effort, so if you do certain behaviors automatically, it can save you energy to focus on harder choices. However, reflexive behaviors can be harder to notice and stop. Because the brain codes habits as one action, behaviors such as nail-biting can be difficult to interrupt in the moment.

Research suggests habits take an average of 66 days to form. Yet this process can take place in as little as 18 days or as long as 254 days. The time it takes to form a habit depends on many factors, such as the behavior’s complexity, individual temperament, and so on.