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Can Brain Science Help Us Break Bad Habits?

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https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/10/28/can-brain-science-help-us-break-bad-habits

newyorker.com

Can Brain Science Help Us Break Bad Habits?
Several years ago, I bought a smartphone and soon came to love it. Being able to send an e-mail, look up a fact, or buy something no matter where I was meant a previously unimaginable gain in productivity. Every time I got an e-mail, the phone emitted a ping and I would deal with whatever it was, priding myself on my efficiency.

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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 m...

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Knowledge is not Enough

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, o...

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Friction

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 ...

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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 h...

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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 s...

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Toothpaste Tingle

Toothpaste companies heavily advertise scary messages of tooth decay (a cue) ensuring people buy their product.
The taste was designed to produce a cert...

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Recognize, Acknowledge, Control

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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Focus On Keystone Habits

Keystone habits lead to the development of multiple good habits. 

Exercise is a good example of this. Once you start to change your exercise habits, it sets off a chain reaction t...

Use “Minimum Viable Effort”

Focus on baby steps. The key to new good habits is to do the minimum and be consistent.

Do not be ambitious at the beginning. That leads to failure. Consistency is what you’re shooting for, so make the hurdle as low as possible.

Make A Plan

Thinking about the details makes you more likely to follow through. 

Just writing down your plan also makes a big difference in effectively committing to your goals.

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Willpower is like a muscle

Just like going to the gym and building up strength, the more you train your willpower by accomplishing tasks on a consistent basis

Self-Discipline - a series of healthy habits

Long term change is better served by building better habits, than by forcing your willpower. 

You will choose the apple over the cake for a number of times ... and then give up. Building a habit to start the day by going to the gym will work better.

Habits = “automatic” responses...

 ...to familiar environmental cues. 

They form when you engage in a behavior repeatedly in the presence of consistent stimuli.

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Habit matching

When planning on building new habits, one easy way to integrate them into your everyday routine is by actually adding them to an already existing habit. 

Therefore, choose one habit y...

A step at a time

Once you have made up your mind about taking on a new habit, you might as well start getting used to it. Just remember that we have, as humans, the tendency to work better without pressure and when taking one step at a time. 

Therefore, start by creating small habits and get used to them and you will see how easy it is to build long-lasting routines that will make your life easier.

Practice makes perfect

When having taken the decision to introduce in your routine a new habit, it is very important to remember that practice makes perfect. Consequently, wait no more and start doing even if just a bit every day. You will eventually succeed in adding a new habit while feeling proud of yourself for being consistent.

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