The Science of Making & Breaking Habits

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In this episode, Dr. Huberman reviews the science of habit formation and habit elimination and how the process of neuroplasticity (brain rewiring) underlies these processes.

He describes two new systems for habit formation. The first system is grounded in the neuroscience of brain states and our ability to perform (and to avoid) certain tasks at different phases of the 24-hour day. The second system focuses on 21-day habit formation and consolidation.

He also discusses “task bracketing” as an approach to enhancing habit formation and eliminating unwanted habits and the neural circuits that underlie task bracketing in the basal ganglia (a brain region for generating and stopping behaviors). Dr. Huberman also reviews the science of dopamine rewards and how to apply that knowledge to shaping habits.

The science and tools in this episode ought to be helpful for anyone looking to build better habits and eliminate unwanted habits for school, work, fitness, relationships, creative endeavors, and more—indeed for any person or situation where behavioral changes are needed.


  • 00:00:00 Introducing Habits; New Programs
  • 00:02:30 Athletic Greens, InsideTracker, Helix Sleep
  • 00:06:52 Habits versus Reflexes, Learning, Neuroplasticity
  • 00:08:51 Goal-Based Habits vs. Identity-Based Habits
  • 00:11:40 How Long It (Really) Takes to Form a Habit; Limbic-Friction
  • 00:16:07 Linchpin Habits
  • 00:18:55 Mapping Your Habits; Habit Strength, Context-Dependence
  • 00:22:55 Automaticity
  • 00:24:03 Tool 1: Applying Procedural Memory Visualizations
  • 00:27:48 Hebbian Learning, NMDA receptors
  • 00:31:00 Tool 2: Task Bracketing; Dorsolateral Striatum
  • 00:37:08 States of Mind, Not Scheduling Time Predicts Habit Strength
  • 00:38:16 Tool 3: Phase-Based Habit Plan: Phase 1
  • 00:46:29 Tool 3: Phase-Based Habit Plan: Phase 2
  • 00:55:24 Tool 3: Phase-Based Habit Plan: Phase 3
  • 01:01:34 Habit Flexibility
  • 01:04:57 Should We Reward Ourselves? How? When? When NOT to.
  • 01:10:30 Tool 4: “Dopamine Spotlighting” & Task Bracketing
  • 01:18:22 Tool 5: The 21-Day Habit Installation & Testing System
  • 01:28:26 Breaking Habits: Long-Term (Synaptic) Depression
  • 01:35:49 Notifications Don’t Work
  • 01:37:50 Tool 6: Break Bad Habits with Post-Bad-Habit “Positive Cargo”
  • 01:44:26 Addictions as Habits
  • 01:45:28 Conclusion & Synthesis
  • 01:48:27 Zero-Cost Support, Sponsors, Patreon, Supplements, Instagram, Twitter