what is habit stacking?


Habit stacking refers to the strategic addition of new, favorable habits right after executing a behavior that you’re trying to change, whether it’s undesirable or neutral. As explained by , this approach involves inserting an adaptive behavior immediately after a habitual action and linking these behaviors in time. This not only disrupts the original "closed loop" of a habit, where one behavior reinforces the next, but it also allows for a reconfiguration of neural pathways, effectively rewriting the brain’s response patterns toward these habits. This technique is rooted in neurobiology, particularly the mechanisms involved in long-term depression of synapses, and aligns with insights from behavioral change research 1 2.

Rewiring Bad Habits

Andrew explains how to change bad habits by adding positive behaviors to disrupt the closed loop of the bad habit. By doing this, you create an open loop that allows for intervention and the ability to rewrite the script for that bad habit. This approach is rooted in the biology of long term depression and maps well to the behavioral change literature.

Huberman Lab

The Science of Making & Breaking Habits | Huberman Lab Podcast #53

Summarize The Science of Making & Breaking Habits | Huberman Lab Podcast #53

Summary of

In this episode from the , delves into the neurobiology and practical strategies of habit formation and alteration. Key topics covered include:

  • Habits Unpacked: Understanding the foundational aspects of habits, including how they are neurologically formed and maintained through mechanisms like procedural memory and Hebbian learning.

  • Limbic Friction & Linchpin Habits: The concept of "limbic friction," which refers to the resistance one feels when trying to change a habit, and the importance of creating "linchpin habits" that can pivot daily routines towards more beneficial outcomes.

  • Task-Bracketing and State Management: Strategies like task-bracketing and managing one's state over time through routines that exploit natural neurochemical changes, like those experienced in the morning.

  • Habit Formation and Breaking: Insights into how habits are formed through repeated actions and anticipation of rewards. Also, methods for breaking habits, highlighting how task notifications are less effective and suggesting better techniques for rewiring problematic behaviors.

  • Habits, Identity, and Health: Discussion on how habits intertwine with personal identity and customization of health solutions through habitual practices.

Through these discussions, the episode aims to equip listeners with the knowledge to intentionally influence their habit cycles, leading to improved personal health and efficiency.


Tell me everything about habit formation


Habit formation is a complex process rooted in psychology and biology. Here's a comprehensive overview based on the insights from the :

Neurobiology of Habit Formation

  • Habit Formation System: A 21-day system is suggested for initiating neuroplastic changes crucial for habit formation. This involves setting and partially completing a set of new habits each day, reinforcing the routine of habit execution rather than focusing solely on specific habit outcomes. This method is designed to cope with inevitable failures by allowing a flexibility in daily goals 1.

  • Reward Prediction and Limbic Friction: Understanding the preceding and subsequent events around a habit is crucial. Engaging with the elements of anticipation, execution, and aftermath allows us to associate dopamine-driven rewards with the habit process, enhancing motivation 2.

Practical Strategies

  • Optimal Timing for Habit Execution: Leveraging the body's natural neurochemical states can significantly facilitate habit formation. Performing the most challenging habits in the morning when dopamine and norepinephrine levels are elevated can help overcome "limbic friction"—a term describing the resistance in forming habits 3.

    Habit Formation

    Andrew outlines a 21-day system for building habits that is rooted in biology and psychology. The system involves performing 6 new habits per day for 21 days, with the expectation of completing only 4 to 5 each day. The focus is on building the habit of performing habits, rather than the specific habits themselves.

    Huberman Lab

    The Science of Making & Breaking Habits | Huberman Lab Podcast #53
  • Task-Bracketing: Structuring habit routines around times when the brain and body are primed with appropriate neurochemicals like dopamine not only engages the brain’s reward system but also hues closely to physiological readiness, making habit formation more effective 4.

Customization and Flexibility

  • Adjusting Habits: Once a habit is formed, it doesn't necessarily have to be linked to a specific time of the day. Randomizing the timing of well-established habits can ensure context independence, a hallmark of strong habit formation 5.

  • Variable Timeframe: The time it takes to form a habit varies widely among individuals, from as few as 18 days to as many as 254 days. This variability emphasizes the importance of a personalized approach to habit formation 6.

By understanding and leveraging these elements, individuals can create effective habit formation strategies tailored to their psychological and biological profiles.