Can Brain Science Help Us Break Bad Habits? - Deepstash
Willpower is Limited

Though companies like Nike try to ignite our willpower with their slogans, ultimately willpower cannot squash our subconscious and unconscious behavior.

Repetition of action and thought can make the required change seep into us, turning it into a machine-like, habitual behavior.

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Just merely knowing something is good or bad for you is not going to give you any benefit, unless the implementation is done. Conscious knowledge cannot change your behavior, one has to make necessary changes to successfully act in self-control.

If you know that you will eat junk food because your refrigerator is filled with it, remove all the junk food.

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Adding Friction To Bad Habits

Just as removing friction aids in doing the activity more often, adding friction can aid to remove the bad habit, by making it difficult or cumbersome to do so.

Example: Cigarette smoking declined due to adding taxes, banning in public places and removing from vending machines.

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Companies and Habits

Companies make us habitual. Companies like Facebook, NetFlix, and Uber spend millions on R&D of better tools to minimize friction, to get people to use their services more and more and form a habit.

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Junk Food Habits

McDonald's, for example, uses brain science to create habits by:

  • Asking 'Would you like some fries with that?'
  • Keeping the restaurants' look and the food taste/color standardized to trigger habitual eating patterns.
  • The salt and sugar in the food are making the brain feel good and happy, creating a sort of addiction.

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The Toothpaste Tingle Strategy

Toothpaste companies heavily advertise scary messages of tooth decay (a cue) ensuring people buy their product.

The taste was designed to produce a certain tingle in the mouth, a fresh, irritant taste that provided a 'reward'.

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A Strategy to break away from a habitual activity is to:

  • Recognize your dependency
  • Acknowledge how the bad habit affects your life
  • Control the Cues to minimize triggers.

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