How to break bad habits, scientifically

And understanding the habit loop

Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash

The simple method for tracking bad habits

We’ve heard about tracking before. Bullet journals, to-do lists, picture diaries, the list can go on and on.

  1. I do this because I’m bored
  2. I do this because of something else.

The habit loop

Surprisingly, a lot of bad habits come from stress and boredom.

The cues of stress and boredom

Well, stress is a cue that triggers due to too much stimulus, and boredom is a cue that triggers due to too little stimulus.

“The thoughtful intentional mind is easily derailed and people tend to fall back on habitual behaviors,” Wood says. “Forty percent of the time we’re not thinking about what we’re doing.”

Intentional habit-making (such as a New Year’s Resolution) can be derailed by nearly anything, and the ease that your brain can slip into automatic habits results in people falling back on bad habits.

How to break bad habits

The first step towards breaking bad habits is to track them.

“Once you tell people about the cue and the reward and force them to recognize what those factors are in a behavior, it becomes much, much easier to change.”

So what is the cue that is triggering this bad habit?

  1. Is there something about this routine that’s boring? Think about ways you can join forces with somebody. So maybe your meditation becomes going to a meditation class in the morning.
  2. If there’s something else besides stress or boredom that is driving these habits (such as a traumatic experience), then perhaps try and write down how you feel or why this happens.

Top writer in UX Design. UX, Data Visualization and Data Science. Author of Data Persuasion: https://tinyurl.com/rndb9bw. Substack: dataanddesign.substack.com

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