Building good habits is essential to make a change and sustain a healthy and productive life. Sometimes we also need to break bad habits. They tend to serve you in the moment; the immediate outcome feels good. But over the long run, bad habits hurt you or benefit you very little.
Like good habits, bad habits also give you a dopamine hit. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is often called the feel-good hormone. Dopamine fires when you get the thing you crave, and when you anticipate getting that thing.
A dopamine hit is not the same as true happiness, say Dr. Jud Brewer, director of research and innovation at Brown University Mindfulness Center, a psychiatrist and an expert in mindfulness training for treating addictions.
To break everyday addictions and bad habits, he recommends you step out of the reactive pattern and just be present with whatever comes up. Use your natural curiosity to learn about the habit loop while you’re in it and become aware of the results of your actions.
There are 4 laws of behavior change, says author, speaker and entrepreneur James Clear. If you want to build a habit, you make it Visible, Attractive, Easy and Satisfying. If you want to stop a habit, you invert the laws. You make it Invisible, Unattractive, Difficult and Unsatisfying.
You might think you have to replace the habit with another to break it. But this is really a last resort. You can untangle the bad habit if you stay mindful, get curious, and invert the 4 laws of behavior change.
“Learn how your mind works, so you can work with it.” – Dr. Jud Brewer
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” – James Clear
- Jud Brewer – The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits
- James Clear – Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
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Dyan Williams is a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is also a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.