We probably have habits we would like to change. There are three parts to habits that make them stick, or hard to break.
The first part of a habit is the cue. The cue (1) is the trigger to your brain to perform an automatic behavior. The cue can be anything from a person, a time of day, or an advertisement, to a set of circumstances.
The cue leads to the routine (2), or habit. The brain gets a reward when the habit or routine is performed.
The reward (3) is the experience the brain is looking for, like comfort or stimulation. This is where the saying comes from: what fires together wires together. These automatic pathways in the brain may quickly set, if the reward is powerful enough, like an addiction.
People may try to stop a bad habit by removing the routine. As an example, a smoker tries to break the habit by throwing away the cigarettes. The better approach to break the habit in the long term is to focus on the cue as well as the routine.
As an example, if you feel that spending time on social media is a habit you’d like to break, you may find it better to pick up a book or newspaper to read when the urge strikes. You might also break the habit by changing the cue. If you find yourself stopping at the doughnut shop on the way to work, then change the route to make the doughnut shop less convenient.
Two good books on habits are The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and Atomic Habits by James Clear.
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Did you know that 50% of mental illness starts by age 14, and 75% by age 24? One in five adults experience a mental illness. Nearly 1 in 25 adults live with a serious mental illness. About 10 million adults have mental health and addiction issues.
Common signs of mental health issues:
Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks.
Significant weight loss or gain.
Heavy alcohol or drug use.
Changes in mood, behavior, personality, or sleep.
Difficulty concentrating or staying still.
Unable to do daily activities due to worry or fear.
Out-of-control behavior that causes harm to self or others.
Harming one’s self or making plans to end one’s life.
On one hand, we have the conventional medical approach to mental illness. There is also the holistic psychiatry and nutritional psychiatry approach to treating mental disorders. You might not be aware of these more integrative approaches to mental health:
Self-care is important. It may be more important now with physical distancing and other disruptions during the pandemic.
Routine is important. Sleep is better with a daily routine.
Stay connected to friends and family. Phone calls, email, social media or writing letters works.
Talk about your feelings to someone you trust.
Limiting social media and news is important. Watching news may be best done in the morning so you can be prepared for sleep.
Be kind and compassionate to others and especially yourself.
You’ll find more information about mental health at:
I recently read of tame and wicked problems. I believe our challenge with COVID-19 is a wicked problem.
A wicked problem has complex interdependencies. The efforts to solve one part of the problem may reveal or create other problems. Some examples of wicked problems include economic, environmental and political issues. A problem requiring a great number of people to change their behavior and beliefs is probably a wicked problem. Other examples of wicked problems are climate change, healthcare, pandemics, drug trafficking and social injustice issues.
We don’t do well with wicked problems. We can neither fight nor run away from this type of problem.
These difficult problems may be another reason for bringing compassion and empathy into our lives. We need to remember to have compassion for ourselves and others in this difficult situation. We are all in this together.
We are living through this a day at a time. We will get through this a day at a time. Remember to be gentle and compassionate to everyone.
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