Rewire Your Brain

If you want to break any addiction, here is an action roadmap.

Let us first understand what addiction is. It is a compulsive habit – an action you can’t stop yourself from taking even though it harms you. But should our brains not find a harmful action undesirable?

Turns out, it is a bit more complicated. Here is what happens.

Our brain is a learning machine and is wired to learn any behavior that feels rewarding. E.g., if you have ice cream after dinner, it feels rewarding (sugar was once good for survival). Hence, to motivate you to eat ice-cream the next time, your brain releases dopamine – a motivation chemical.

To cut a long story short, if you keep having ice cream after dinner, gradually, your brain makes the behavior automatic. The underlying idea is that if something is rewarding, why not just do it automatically?

The problem with addictions is that they feel rewarding in the moment but cause frustration later (e.g., when you feel helpless). This gives us a clever mechanism to break the habit.

So here is the technique – every time you indulge in an undesirable habit (e.g., smoke or eat unhealthy snacks), fully observe the frustration you feel AFTER the act. Feel the sense of helplessness – soak into it.

As you do it again and again, your brain will instinctively lower the reward value it attaches to the action. And once the action feels non-rewarding at a gut level, the habit will weaken and break.

Try it out and see for yourself.

– Rajan

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