I’m pretty sure there is something to be said that when I searched for an image to encapsulate the concept of “habit” or “habit forming” the first few pages were images of smoking and drinking. Whether that says something about myself or the algorithm influenced by thousands of searches, a much smarter person would probably be able to answer more thoroughly. Still, it does seem easier to develop unhealthy or passively negative habits over positive ones at times, right?
Or at least it feels that way. There are several reasons for this perception. For example, unhealthy actions tend to give an immediate positive response. Grabbing a glass of scotch (preferred), eating a slice of cake, ignoring the Netflix warning to watch hour seven of the newest release: these all give us a quick chemical rush that feels, at the very least, pleasant and wanting more. And to be fair, none of these activities are inherently bad, but they are easier to keep doing, even passively or unconsciously, compared to going for the nuts and vegetable to snack on or going for a jog or virtually any healthy or positive alternative.
Still, we cannot just keep watching television while scarfing down Flaming Hot Cheetos (this one might be more specific to me) every day as enjoyable as that may be. Because whatever we continuously do, good or bad, will become our ingrained actions. Well, that is the general convention concerning habit forming, but how accurate is it? Obviously, the more you do something, the easier it becomes, and, theoretically, the more you are naturally inclined to continue performing that action. However, if that is true, why is “yo-yo” dieting a thing? Why do we pick up bad habits weeks, months, even years after ingraining good ones?
It would seem that an active, conscious choice is required to start and continue habits that do not have the immediate dopamine release that our brains and bodies enjoy. I have never experienced nor understood the “runner’s high” mentality. Frankly, I hate running. It is, in my opinion, the worst form of cardio. I would rather do just about anything else. Yet, I know it is one of the best forms of cardio exercise and something that provides an immense amount of health benefits that cannot be as easily done with other available forms of exercise. So, I do it. And while it is not enjoyable, I do like the effects it has on my mind and body. Thus, I choose to keep running because of how beneficial it is to me. I am also aware of how easy it would be to just stop running and do anything else. I have to make myself get up and go for a run.
Perhaps, the choice is the habit I am forming. Maybe it is simply something that I will never develop into a natural, inherent habit. Whether an action becomes a habit or something that has to be actively chosen ultimately does not matter though. What is important is the actual act. Who cares if running never becomes something that I just naturally feel like doing? Or that pizza and chips will always be preferable to fruits and veggies. As long as I still go for a run and exercise most days and eat greens more often than a hamburger, what is the purpose of habit forming other than a belief in ease of experience? Frankly, I would prefer the idea that I actively choose what to do for myself than simply a Pavlovian response of habit. Either way, all that really matters is to…