Habits may backfire

Our day to day life controlled by lots of habits. Driving your car, lacing your shoes, eating, conversations, your friday night’s enthusiasm, playing with your dog, flossing your cat and trying to judge whether I’m a cat/dog person. It’s all part our habits.

Habits are great but it will backfire if we are not feeding the right one.

Let’s say your have a habit of watching videos online for long hours, you would really enjoy it at first. But, since you’ve have started spending too much hours infront of the TV you are being late to office daily.

Now you’re trying to avoid being late to office and stop watching TV during weekdays.

You came from office had dinner and went to bed without watching TV. But you can’t sleep you mind isn’t ready for a sleep. It’s working and as always. Eventually it started triggering thoughts about your favourite programme. But your are consciousness suppress that thought saying “You’re late to office because of watching TV”.

As time goes your mind started protesting it’s need to watching TV programme. And may be an hour’s or less battle came to conclusion , you’re infront of your TV now.

Now the habit started backfiring. This continues for a long time, each time whenever you make a decision to not watching TV before bed and you did give up and continue watching it the habit becomes stronger. Now you putting over weight and want to workout but still can’t give up the desire to watch TV. At this stage it no longer a habit but an addiction.

The pattern goes like these,

  1. Came from office had dinner and feel bored.
  2. Turned on TV and started watching programmes, you mind feels good.
  3. Late-night sleep so late at office.
  4. Work, TV, inadequate sleep, late to office, gaining weight and depressed.

Breaking the routine

On a wonderful Wednesday evening after office you decide not to go home. After some minutes of fast-forwarding, now you are sitting in a park bench and wondering what’s wrong with yourself.

You made a conscious decision that you are not going to watch TV before bed because it started sabotaging your life. You came up with plan.

  1. After office no more TV.
  2. Read in bed before sleep.
  3. On time for office.

Then you started walking in the park for some minutes and returning to home. Now you are clear about the plan, so took a book and started reading in the bed. Even part of your mind started making noise about the TV programme you are suppressing it and continue to read the book. After some time you fall asleep.

Next day you made office on-time and returned home started reading before bed and fall asleep early. Whenever you got thoughts about the TV you are suppressing it and following your new plan.

Habits are basically three step process, cue or trigger, action or routine and finally the reward which makes the habit stick.

In this case of TV addiction let’s dissect the patterns and fit in the three steps process of habits.

Cue – After office returning to home and feel boring.
Routine Watching the TV programmes.

Reward Feeling good.

Now you are worrying about the routine. You want to avoid feeling bored also not like to stay awake for a long time by watching TV.

And you have replaced the Routine by keeping the same Cue and the Reward.

If boring, then instead of watching TV you are reading stories and feel good about yourself. As you progress with this new routine for a long time the habit start to stick.

We could apply this three steps process for any habits and change the routine if needed. Some habits would be simple and easy to classify but there are complex habits which may be harder to isolate the Cue. But if we spent some time to observe and record patterns we could easily digest the complexity and identify the triggers.

Remember we can easily change the habits by replacing the routines but the cue and reward will remains the same. The habit loop will sit somewhere in the basal ganglia of your brain expecting for the perfect Cueing condition. Whenever it triggered the predetermined Routines will be performed to attain the desired Rewards.

Our conscious efforts would need to override the default and perform our desired Routines for the same Cue in order the change the habit. The longer we persists with the new routine the habit will record the new behaviour as new default Routine.

Now and forever

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