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Habits can be formed subconsciously. We have cues and triggers in our environment that tell our brain to initiate some sort of routine behavior or algorithm. Once that routine is established, our brains create a type of reward that reinforces that routine. And when the behavior loop hasn’t been triggered, we tend to crave that reward. It’s important to be aware of habit formation and how they can dictate our lives if we let them.
Let’s talk about eating. Do you eat to live or live to eat? How can we separate the two? Eating is either a social or emotional activity for a lot of people. It is not just about getting the calories or nutrition you need for the next task. We are not robots, after all. First, it is important to understand your why. Why did you eat that? Why did you choose to eat at this moment? Why did you not stop? Dig deep and ask yourself why you eat. Some people are emotional eaters. Others eat out of boredom. Some people love to be around others, and going out for dinner is just an excuse to get together with people for a sense of community.
Take the example of eating out of boredom. The first step is to figure out your habit. Using myself as an example, I don’t like working for long stretches without a break. I tend to feel guilty about pausing work and convincing myself that I am hungry and use that as my excuse to get up, stretch my legs, and leave my work behind for 15 minutes while I get a snack. My trigger is boredom at work or a sense that I need to step away. My routine is to get up and engage with coworkers or get away from my work. The payoff is the delicious snack I chose, which reinforces the routine. How do we change that habit? Knowing the trigger is my boredom or desire to get away from work, I plan on what I will do. The next time I get bored or believe I am hungry, I make no excuse and get up. The new routine instead of getting food is to either go for a short walk or engage in some other fun distraction for 10-15 minutes. What’s the payoff that reinforces this new routine? Either a fun conversation with a coworker, fresh air, and increased blood flow from a quick walk, or getting lost in TikTok videos that make me laugh (set a timer!).
Being conscious about that habit will give you the power to shift your routine. Just make sure there is something else pleasurable that replaces the bad habit. In the coming months, we will discuss more habits and how we can shift them. Next month, we will discuss exercise and how to form positive habits and routines for that.
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Published by Dr. Zaid Fadul
Healthcare 101, Health Care Guides, Health Insurance Plans