The Time to Break a Habit
Updated: May 28
Routines, rituals, and tasks that become habitual give us a sense of security. It’s easy to argue that the habit of eating a vegetable at every meal is good for our well-being. Although drinking a Diet Coke at every meal can be detrimental. Our minds and bodies crave the feeling we get from performing certain habits, especially when we are stressed. The degrees vary, but it’s helpful to know what the triggers are for unhealthy habits and when you might need to take action to break them.
Habits have three main parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. For example, a coffee drinker might wake up every morning and go to the kitchen (the cue), make the coffee (the routine), and feel a caffeine buzz after consumption (the reward). The reward sends dopamine through our system, which is the chemical in our bodies that make us want to do something over and over. We get a dopamine hit from a cup of coffee just as we do from the ding of a smartphone when a message pops up- and we are programmed to want to go check it immediately. What do we do when we decide we want to stop drinking coffee every day or checking our phone every time it dings?
According to Elliot Berkman, director of the University of Oregon’s Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab, a good time to break an undesirable habit is when a major life change occurs like a move, relationship shift, or a job change. The current unemployment numbers indicate many of us are experiencing this very shift. In addition, most of us have had to shift our lifestyle to navigate a new normal. New routines, new physical and social protocols in and outside of the home. A significant shift in perspective could be a catalyst to take stock in what matters, and set goals not only for how we survive, but how we live. There may not be a more opportune time to change the mold than now.