Nobody’s perfect. We’re all shaped by our genetics and environment and susceptible to developing unhealthy behavioral patterns. Whether it’s compulsively checking social media, over eating, smoking cigarettes, drinking or doing drugs, the brain learns to associate certain acts with emotional comfort. The process is actually a learning disorder, one where the brain becomes wired to skew information, but—here’s the good news—we can reverse it.
How does a bad habit take hold? Let’s use food for a simple example of how the brain can lead us astray. When we see something delicious, the mind is programmed to think, “yummy.” And when we eat, we usually feel good because of the extra calories coursing through our system. So, as this process repeats, “yummy” correlates with feeling good.
But then at some point—maybe when we’re feeling anxious, abandoned or overwhelmed—the brain looks for a way to feel good again and remembers that eating does the trick. Eventually, if we eat during these situations often enough, the emotional trigger (feeling stressed, sad, etc.) sends us to the refrigerator when we’re not even hungry. In this scenario, eating becomes the source of comfort, love or safety we lack.
With other habits, it’s the same process, Most anything—compulsively checking […]