Mental Health · Random thoughts · Recovery

Habit Talk

I’d like to chat a bit tonight about the thing I’ve been really fascinated by for the last several months. Habits. The book that I am currently reading, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, is extremely engaging to read. He gives real-life examples of how habits dictate human behavior. He talks a lot about how those who have been able to understand and harness the power of habits have been able to accomplish amazing things. Things such as winning NFL Championships, breaking from addiction, changing the culture of entire organizations, making billions of dollars by analyzing consumer habits, and more. I am currently studying addiction in school so I am particularly interested in how this ties into addiction and recovery but I have always been fascinated by behavioralism and the things that drive our behavior.

In the book, he talks about studies that have repeatedly shown how small positive changes tend to create an avalanche effect. I think the reverse can be true as well, as the slow undoing of positive changes can lead to more unfavorable behavior. I was reflecting on this for myself tonight. You see I also happen to have a skin condition that is very hard to manage but there are key things that happen to trigger it. Those things include stress, certain foods, smoking, sweat, and excessive rubbing of areas where you sweat, and I am sure there are more things. The only reason I bring this up (I promise this will tie back into habits) is because I had a skin flare tonight and I was reflecting on what had changed over the last week. I started back at school this week and work had been pretty busy and my parents were just visiting. Therefore, I think it is fair to say I’ve been experiencing increased stress. This got me thinking about stress management which for me is usually through swimming and laying out in the sun. Well, when my parents were in town I couldn’t do laps like I normally would and then this last week I couldn’t swim because I had a mole removed. So I haven’t had my usual venue to manage my stress. I then began to ponder whether the lack of exercise and stress was trickling into other behavioral differences. I realized I smoked a cigar last Sunday. What after months made this a desire for me? I do have cigars from time to time, but why now? Also, I’d been getting in the habit of making my bed and I’ve been finding that hasn’t been happening and the house is a bit unkempt. I have also not been sleeping as well.

Our bodies are systems that function best with positive routines and habits. It is amazing how quickly I can throw my system off track. When I do, I am not as effective, I don’t feel as good, and all those negative things start to appear. Often times I don’t even realize it. I am not sure I would have even put much thought into it tonight had it not been for my skin condition. People think routine is boring but our minds and bodies actually crave the familiar. The book talks about this a lot. There is this whole example they provide in there on music, which I won’t try to type out as it would take too long and I wouldn’t do it justice. But the studies show whether you want to believe it or not, people tend to seek out what is familiar.

Most people I think can agree that changing a habit is hard. Especially something that you have done for a really long time. I think our upbringing can impact our ability to be successful for many reasons but one of which is the number of bad habits we either have to break or good habits we have to instill. Some people are unfortunately raised in chaos, disorganization, etc. Therefore as adults, the cards from the get are kind of stacked against them. They actually seek out chaos and disorganization because it is what is familiar. They were never provided with all the small positive habits that some people were fortunate enough to grow up with. A small positive habit such as brushing your teeth after meals, cleaning up your bedroom, reflecting on your day, and setting goals. Parents really do have an opportunity to make an extremely important impact in their child’s life by giving their children a routine and teaching them positive habits. This helped me to realize that this is possibly the reason why some have to work so much harder to succeed than others. Those that may succeed more easily are people who had fewer bad habits to overcome or fewer good habits they needed to learn. Perhaps this is what makes some parts of recovery programs easier to pick up on than others for some people. I mean there are hundreds of things that feed into what allows some to be more successful than others in managing life it seems. It doesn’t all tie back to habits. I know that, but it is interesting to think about.

Cover Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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