Because our brain can focus only on what we perceive will provide well-being in the next ten minutes, we are primed for self-destructive behavior. If we allow our auto-pilot function, along with our short-term focus, to control us, we can do ourselves great harm. We must consciously decide, therefore, on our longer-term best interest.
We also need to understand reinforcement. Repetition + perceived well-being = reinforcement. That’s how our brain learns. Actions, feelings, or thoughts, when reinforced, lead us to feel better. When reinforced, those actions, thoughts, or feelings can also become a habit. We don’t always feel pleasure from our decision to consciously choose a healthy step. Reinforcement, therefore, remains crucial. After we quit, do others give us kudos, express appreciation, or show affection? Reinforcement also derives from disasters no longer happening. We feel no elation or euphoria, but we’re not as ashamed, guilty, or as angry as we would have been had we not stopped.
Unfortunately, because my sister drank too much, she died at age 38, a source of great personal pain. Today’s date, March 9, was her birthday. If you drink too much, however, you can stop. We create, reinforce, maintain, and change an addiction (a compulsive bad habit) the same way we do any other habit. If you drink too much, but want to stop, you can change your habit!
Source: Brian E. King, Ph.D. Presentation on How the Brain Forms New Habits, Institute for Brain Potential, Clackamas, OR 2/1/12