How We Form Routines


Lindsey Cohen

Jaclyn Weiner, Viewpoints Editor

Whether it’s roaming the hallways, talking to friends, or sitting in homeroom, the majority of students have morning routines. It is quite peculiar how unchanging students’ routines are and how deeply students’ routines correlates to others’. How coincidental are our routines? What is the reason we choose these tasks? And how do we form habits and routines?

Interesting results were found in a survey of Wantagh High School attendees, who arrive, on average, at 7:17am. About 96% of students have same or similar routines every morning. All surveyed whom have routines, proclaimed their routines were formed either at the beginning of the school year or their freshmen year. This seems to be an extensive amount of time to have continuously parallel mornings.

Before homeroom, individuals seem to be walking in circles throughout the hallways, quite aimlessly. No one seems to realize how peculiar walking in loops is because such a large portion of our peers do it. But why do we do this? What are we trying to accomplish? Because we can all agree, we aren’t getting anywhere.

About 48% of those who walk around the hallways before school only walk downstairs, so tip to those trying to steer away from traffic: Climb the stairs. Over half of students only walk clockwise or counterclockwise, never turning in the other direction until homeroom starts. Unless you are only capable of walking in one direction, it is difficult to explain why students tend to follow this pattern.

From the day you enter Wantagh High School, you know that the same group of people sit in the same locations of the hallways, every day. Each year’s seniors seem to choose a particular spot to crowd each morning. Three quarters of students who sit or stand in the hallway before homeroom, go to the same spot every day.

“I always called them the mall people,” Mr. Shapiro, a WHS social studies teacher, said about the morning walkers, “They walk around the hallways just like the old people who come to the mall during early hours just to walk around.”
Shapiro also said, regarding the students who congregate in specific spots each morning, “I don’t know why students pick a spot each year to crowd. It has frequently become an issue for those trying to get through the hallways. For example, a few years back, the seniors would sit on both sides of the hallway with their legs out. I don’t know why students crowd certain spots each morning-every year-but it’s been like that for as long as I can remember.”

“People find comfort in routine,” said Mr. Dubin, a WHS English teacher, on the matter, “They like to find a place to settle into.”

When asked why they developed these routines- sitting in a certain location, walking in a particular direction, etc. – most replied that they do it to kill time. Others just simply didn’t know. Most high school attendees also divulged that their mornings are quite relaxed. Is this because they continually fall into the same routine each morning, thus having nothing to stress about? They don’t have to accomplish anything different than they did the day before.

Habits begin in the psychological pattern, called the “habit loop.” “First, there’s a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold,” according to the article, “Habits: How They Form,” in the article, “Habits: How They Form” on In the article, Duhigg states that after the behavior trigger, the routine will form. “The third step, he says, is the reward: something that your brain likes that helps it remember the “habit loop” in the future.”

For example, the cue may be arriving early to school creating boredom. Then you may notice that your friend appears at a certain spot in the school every morning. You begin to automatically go there each morning, forming an automatic routine. The routine results in a lack of boredom, helping your brain remember the “habit loop” each day.

“Neuroscientists have traced our habit-making behaviors to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which also plays a key role in the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. Decisions, meanwhile, are made in a different part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. But as soon as a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain goes into a sleep mode of sorts,” the article, “Habits: How They Form” on, states.

Duhigg goes on to explain that as you continue a routine, your brain starts to work less and less. Thus you become less conscious of your actions. This saves mental activity that you can use on other tasks.

If you stop these routines for a period of time, it is more likely to break. That can explain why when we go on vacation we sometimes feel disoriented after return.

No matter if you are conscious of your daily routines or not, there are reasons behind them. If these routines weren’t triggered by anything, they wouldn’t have formed. Some of the common morning activities may seem strange when looking at them in a different perspective. But they wouldn’t be so common if they weren’t triggered by something nor had some kind of benefit. Each student may have different reasons to trigger their behavior. Only you can figure out why your routine formed. Next time you are going through the motions of the morning, think of the reasons behind why you created your routine and if/how it benefits you.