Make a Habit of Learning English

    03 November 2020

    Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, many people have had to change their habits, or usual ways of doing things.

    Some people who used to go to school now study at home. Some of them have been trying to get in the habit of learning and studying on their own.

    How might habits connect with studying and learning?

    Checking social media can be a bad study habit. But there are steps to take to avoid such habits.
    Checking social media can be a bad study habit. But there are steps to take to avoid such habits. (STRF/STAR MAX/IPx)

    Today's Education Tips will explore that very question.

    What are habits?

    Habits are regular ways of dealing with your environment. You generally do not pay attention to them.

    In the book Good Habits, Bad Habits, Dr. Wendy Wood notes that "A habit turns the world around you—your context—into a trigger to act."

    Habits take many forms – eating, exercising, even studying. You may not realize it, but habits make up many of the actions that you do every day.

    How are habits made?

    In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear describes a four-step process by which habits are made. These steps are cue, craving, response, and reward.

    The cue tells your brain to begin a behavior. The craving is what makes you want to do something. The response is the actual habit that you perform. The response, in turn, gives you a reward. "Rewards are the end goal of every habit," Clear writes.

    Consider this example. Maybe you have the habit of often checking social media. The cue might be a feeling of boredom while you are near your computer or phone. The craving could be a desire to stop that feeling. The response is checking social media, and the reward is seeing something interesting. When that process is repeated many times, it becomes a habit.

    Clear believes that to create a good habit, you need to follow several steps. You need to make your new habit obvious, or easy to see or understand. The habit should also be attractive, simple and satisfying. Let's think about how you might develop an English study habit.

    Make a habit studying English

    You should organize your surroundings in such a way that the cues of your new habit are very obvious. For example, if you want to get in the habit of studying English every day, leave English books or notes in a very clear place.

    To make your habit attractive, Clear recommends joining a culture where your new desired behavior is the normal behavior. For example, you could join a group of other English learners in online meetings.

    To make your new habit easy, you could decrease the number of steps you have to take in order to study. You could also try reducing the amount of time you study. Clear suggests beginning your habits with limited, shorter time periods – two minutes for example. As you repeat the practice over time, you can go longer.

    An important point to keep in mind is that if you place too many demands on yourself, you are more likely to give up on your new habit.

    Finally, you need to make your habit satisfying. You can give yourself a reward after completing your new habit. For example, if you study English for 15 minutes, you could reward yourself by listening to a song you like. Or you could think about how much progress you have made since you first started studying English.

    Wood notes that your reward should come right after you do your new habit. "Rewards have to be experienced right after we do something in order to build habit associations ... in memory," she writes.

    Closing thoughts

    Building new habits can take time. You may have to repeat an action many times before it becomes a habit. But with time, careful planning and continued practice, you can do it.

    I'm John Russell.

    John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    regular – adj. happening over and over again at the same time or in the same way

    context – n. the situation in which something happens : the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens

    trigger – n. something that causes something else to happen — often + for

    boredom – n. the state of being bored or uninterested

    attractive – adj. having a feature or quality that people like

    practice – n. the activity of doing something again and again in order to become better at it

    association – n. a feeling, memory, or thought that is connected to a person, place, or thing — usually plural

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