Breaking bad habits

In The Power of Habit, the concept of a habit loop is discussed. The loop begins with a habit trigger, or triggering event. Next comes the habitual behavior, followed by the reward feeling.

Participants in a study on bad habits were asked to write down their feelings on index cards right before engaging in the habitual behavior. At the end of the observation period participants reviewed their cards. Once the triggering feelings were identified, participants tried to insert a replacement behavior.  The researchers found that the simple act of writing down the feelings helped reduce the number of bad habit behaviors.

I have tried to use this technique before without success. I tried again today and I think I found the reason why it didn’t work before. I used to write the triggering events on a notepad and then try to keep a journal. Then I would put the notebook aside.  This procedure was kind of a pain in the ass so I gave it up.  As a consequence I didn’t give myself any feedback.

Today,  instead of a notepad I used small,  bright orange post it notes to write down my feelings before engaging in the bad habit. I then stuck them on my desk.  Easy to do and easy to review. Plus it’s easy to throw them away at the end. As a final added bonus,  if any of the triggering feelings require follow up they are easily flagged.

I noted a total of 11 triggering feelings.
Boredom: 4
Challenged: 4
Frustration/confusion: 2
Distracted: 2

(Note:  one feeling was bored and challenged at the same time)

The distracted feelings are worth discussing because I was distracted by things that I find more interesting than the project I needed to finish.  One such thing is daily writing. I said a few months back that I wanted to commit to writing a story every day. I didn’t do that once,  so it’s modified to just plain writing every day.

There is more to write on related to habit loops,  but a digression may be warranted here.  Actually,  maybe this is related to habit. I finally got a smartphone about a month ago and told myself it’s a tool not a toy. Of course,  within a day it became fuck around instrument. So, now, I mean right now in this moment,  I’m using the phone for daily writing.  Replacing a bad habit with a good one.  Full circle.