How are habits formed? Why is it so hard to do the stuff we should do and so easy to do the “bad” stuff? According to author Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit we see something we want (Stimuli) and we go after it for the reward it will bring. But it is more complicated than this because sometimes the immediate reward costs us more in the long run. Take, for example, dieting. We know we should eat healthy. Then we walk by a bakery shop. Memories of delicious foods  come in through our sense of smell, ah the aroma of fresh baked bread. Wouldn’t that taste good? Don’t I deserve to eat something delicious? Yes, I do! before another thought can enter your head you are walking through the door and not only buying bread but a sweet treat as well.

What happened to the diet? It was overwhelmed by sensations and memories of past enjoyment. It was kicked to the curb! Again!

Now what?  Have your heard the expression being thin feels better than food tastes? When I first heard this I said “Yes”! But why am I not thin? It’s complicated. You have to understand the system that is running your choices. First, there is the system of metabolism and hunger. How do you control that? I find that it helps to limit carbs and simple sugars but I am not doing this all of the time. I “cheat” because sugar feels like a reward.

Then there is the complexity of our minds. We think thoughts all the time. Some of them happy and gratifying and others that are harsh and judgemental. Mind control is another topic, but it plays strongly in the arena of diet and habit formation. Can you think yourself thin? Lynne McTaggart says yes. Again, more for another day.

Then there is the complex question, what is a reward? There are immediate and delayed rewards. Supposedly as we get older and hopefully wiser, we can delay gratification. We learn to wait. But then this wiser self looks at death and says, “have that sweet now”!  So, we do. And maybe we feel a little less guilty. And we decide that being THIS SIZE is not so bad after all. So, what is a reward? Do it now or wait? Yes! Figure out what satisfies you deep down inside and do that.

In the end the habit loop explains the stimulus/reward part of the brain. But we are more complicated than the old part of our brains, the amygdala. We have the ability to choose our thoughts and our responses.

Habits. Good ones have long-lasting benefits. Go for that.

Jamie