A simple way to break a bad habit Judson Brewer
When I was first learning to meditate, the instruction was to simply pay attention to my breath, and when my mind wandered, to bring it back. Sounded simple enough. Yet I’d sit on these silent retreats, sweating through Tshirts in the middle of winter. I’d take naps every chance I got because it was really hard work. Actually, it was exhausting.
The instruction was simple enough but I was missing something really important. So why is it so hard to pay attention? Well, studies show that even when we’re really trying to pay attention to something like maybe this talk at some point, about half of us will drift off into a daydream,.
Or have this urge to check our Twitter feed. So what’s going on here? It turns out that we’re fighting one of the most evolutionarilyconserved learning processes currently known in science, one that’s conserved back to the most basic nervous systems known to man. This rewardbased learning process is called positive and negative reinforcement,.
And basically goes like this. We see some food that looks good, our brain says, quot;Calories! . Survival!quot; We eat the food, we taste it it tastes good. And especially with sugar, our bodies send a signal to our brain that says, quot;Remember what you’re eating and where you found it.quot;.
We lay down this contextdependent memory and learn to repeat the process next time. See food, eat food, feel good, repeat. Trigger, behavior, reward. Simple, right? Well, after a while, our creative brains say,.
quot;You know what? You can use this for more than just remembering where food is. You know, next time you feel bad, why don’t you try eating something good so you’ll feel better?quot; We thank our brains for the great idea, try this and quickly learn that if we eat chocolate or ice cream when we’re mad or sad, we feel better.
Same process, just a different trigger. Instead of this hunger signal coming from our stomach, this emotional signal feeling sad triggers that urge to eat. Maybe in our teenage years, we were a nerd at school, and we see those rebel kids outside smoking and we think,.