THE "HABIT LOOP"

Triggered Rewards

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that a lot of research has been conducted on the process of habit formation. We humans develop habits quite easily, and scientists have wanted to know why. So years of research have helped psychologists discover a pattern in human behavior called the “habit loop.”

The “habit loop” works like this: The brain records the feelings that a person has whenever that person performs a certain behavior. The brain also remembers the circumstances that gave rise to that behavior. So whenever a person responds to a situation in a particular way and then has a good feeling as a result of his actions, the person’s brain records the experience. Then, the next time the person faces a similar situation, his brain remembers the action he took the last time and prompts him to take that same action again.

When a repetitive behavior produces a positive feeling each time a person performs it, that person’s brain causes him to form a habit. And that explains the “habit loop” that governs our lives. A certain “trigger” (or “cue” or “reminder”) will cause a person to perform the behavior that his brain has attached to that trigger, and then the “reward” that he experiences will reinforce that behavior in his subconscious.

This is why you perform habitual behaviors without even thinking about them. But the good news is that a person can circumvent this process to force himself to learn good habits instead of bad ones. The key is to find a “trigger” that will help you perform the behavior you want to perform and then find a “reward” that will reinforce that behavior in your life. If you do this long enough, the behavior will become permanent, and you will perform it routinely without even thinking about it. And good habits can enhance your life.

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