I’m interested in the connection between thought habits and physical habits. Most of research on habits is done with physical habits: smoking, drinking, and eating, because they are easy to measure. Changing physical habits also requires changing thought habits, but the process is assisted by that nice clean measuring stick: it’s black or white as to whether you’ve smoked a cigarette or eaten vegetables today.
Like most people, I have several thought habits that I would like to change. While I’m sure it’s not outright more challenging to change thought habits, they are somewhat lacking in practical weight or grounding, and can be tricky to even notice. Yet, when I look at my life, and ask what I can do to improve things, the answer that comes back is always related to better thinking. That’s really why I write this blog. Thought habits are squishy. They aren’t easily compartmentalized. They can be hard to even observe. But they have a huge impact. Writing helps make them concrete.
Daniel smoked cigarettes for nearly twenty years before quitting a couple years ago. The way he described it, “The time was just right.” It was three days of withdrawal and then nothing else. His little diagram of “quitting” is below.
The only substance I’ve tried to quit with difficulty was coffee. I did give it up for a year, but still craved it. Eventually, it seemed not worth it, because coffee has a metabolic effect. Not having coffee caused me to gain weight, which (in my mind) dramatically outweighed any potential benefit. Basically, according to the diagram above, the will was there, the goal was there, but the external forces/reason weakened when I saw the metabolic side effect. (Now coffee is just about the only social consumption ritual I take part in and I wouldn’t give it up for that reason.)
Of course, with thoughts habits, all three parts of the venn diagram are perhaps a little more abstract to identify, activate, and notice benefits or improvements.
I just received the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg- and haven’t yet read it- but expect it will be a useful entryway into this topic.