Dry July-Day 16~Replacing Rewards

I went ahead a got a month long trial to Audible.com because I wanted to listen to a book entitled “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business” by Charles Duhigg, that keeps popping up in my research into habits and addictions.

This book is fantastic because it relates how our habits are more than just personal decision making as an individual; in fact it blows the idea up into the macrocosm of Fortune 500 companies like Starbucks, and how their business model and positive practices are actually designed to trickle down into the personal lives and decisions of their employees.  Or a company like Target, that uses high tech algorithms to predict shopping habits of their patrons, and can go so far in their predictions to know when a woman is pregnant, all based off data collection.  Even National Sports team coaches use habit strategies to create award winning teams.

The Power of Habit talks about experiments in brain function, and takes us further into the understanding of why we do, what we do.  It is a topic that can be related to every aspect of living. Even mundane things, we never think twice about.    For instance, I never realized most people put on their shoes the same way every day.  Usually, right foot first.

 I usually just jam my foot into which ever one is closest, or seems easiest to get my foot into.

I mean, think about it.  What shoe do you usually put on first?  Is it intentional?  Most likely it goes back to when you were first learning how to tie your shoes, and most likely you had an adult there trying to help you make sure you had the right shoe on the right foot.  Most likely because “right” is a direction and a side, you were programmed to put the right shoe, on the right foot, first.  Thus began a pattern, a muscles memory, a ritual, and ultimately a habit you no longer think twice about.

The book says that you can not just eliminate a bad habit, you have to replace it.  Habits stimulate reward receptors in our brains.  If you get the right shoe on the right foot, the reward as a child, is your adult telling you “good job!”,  the reward once we actually learn the difference for ourselves, is not having painful feet.

Chemicals like alcohol are a bit more complex with their reward triggers due to how the chemical of alcohol directly influences the chemicals in our brain.  When we look forward to that drink after a hard day at work, we know it will help us relax, but it isn’t the alcohol in and of itself that creates that feeling.  It is the fact that drinking stimulates dopamine produced in the brain, and dopamine feels great. Alcohol also blocks stimulation in the frontal cortex where our decision making and inhibitions originate, making it easier to “shut off” what we don’t want to think about.

We can get our bodies to release dopamine in ways much healthier than drinking.  So ideally, in cessation of alcohol, it is good to figure out what our perceived reward is, and to replace that behavior with a healthier habit that triggers that same reward feeling.

For me, I am trying to get addicted to being sweaty.

I am working out every day.  I think I have only taken two days off in the last three weeks.  Every week, I am pushing myself to go further, faster, longer.  I am training myself to wake up to look forward to it, because I am starting to see subtle changes, and I am curious enough, at this point, to see where I can go.

Learning more about how the body, mind and chemicals keep us going, helps me to motivate myself.  It gives a purpose and a first hand knowledge to the process of change.  It takes my mind off of wanting a drink, and snaps it into wanting to know more about all the reasons I logically and physiologically do not need to consume alcohol.

My knowledge reward centers appear to be stronger than my alcohol consumption reward center.  Hmmm, this might be the only time that being a “know it all” is actually coming in handy.

Have you replaced a bad habit with a good habit?  What was it?  Tell me about it.  Do you have any strange habits with strange origins that trigger your reward centers?  Do you struggle with OCD?  I want to hear about it.  Post your story in the comments, please!  Pass this post around to friends and family, and leave those LIKEs where I can see them.

Click the links below for more sobriety content, and have a lovely day!

Dry July- Day 15~ Digging for Truth

Dry July- Day 14~ Dry Friday

Dry July- Day 13~ Recycle Cycle

Dry July- Day 12~ Handle ThySelf

Dry July- Day 11~ Where is the Energy?

Dry July- Day 10~ Compounded Ball of Stress

Dry July-Day 9~BandAid

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