Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean [Book Summary – Review]

Even if you think you are stable or controlled, your life is guided by your habits. There is a possibility that these habits can also be useful. They can be a routine that you do every morning, or they can be behaviors during your conversation. Such habits should be celebrated or encouraged, as when you want to cook your food at home or read more books.

However, there are also some habits that are not always good. Many people want to give up their bad habits, such as smoking or eating unhealthy and constantly gaining weight, but they refuse to give up their more invisible habits, namely negative thought habits. These habits can be more threatening to ignore.

This summary first begins by explaining what habits really are, and then shows to the reader how people can control their habits and make their life better.

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Chapter 1 – Habits are repetitive behaviors with little or no awareness.

What do you do when someone throws you a ball? You will probably catch it before you know it consciously. It is called habit- an action that is often done without realizing it.

The first stage of a habit is automatically turning into action. That is, not to be conscious of an action such as turning on the light when entering a room.

Also, since repetition reduces excitement, the implementation of habits is done without emotion.

Let’s take your morning routine: Does it create powerful feelings for you? Or think of watching a mountain view from your office window every day. It is great and fascinating to see this landscape at first, but the pleasure and excitement you get from seeing this landscape decreases radically over time.

Along with automaticity, context also determines habits because of the relationships you create between your environment and your behavior. You remember what it was like to be a student, right? The freedom to live without responsibility and to drink the beers you enjoy with your friends? Because of these previous experiences, you can base the happiness of socializing on the habit of drinking alcohol. So now you want to drink a beer whenever you meet and socialize with your friends.

So how do people actually get into their habits? Let’s review the following methods in order:

First, determination forms habits. For instance, you will try to brush your teeth regularly in order to have healthy and bright teeth.

Another method of forming habits is to continue to do an action that was done in the past by adding a reason to it. Suppose you prefer to always sit in the same spot in your friend’s kitchen because when you went to her house for the first time, it was the only free place to sit. However, now you say that your seat is your favorite spot to sit because the sunlight is coming and the chair is comfortable.

As a result, you can put together both the determination and the description of your habits. You may have started cycling to work because you started dieting, but you continue cycling because you like going out to get fresh air.

Chapter 2 – Habits can be in any situation; if the habits are bad, they will get worse.

What habits do you have in your life? Dieting and smoking may be the habits than come to mind first. However, we actually have many different habits in our lives.

We live unconsciously about one-third of the life we live awake. That is, the life part we use in autopilot without realizing what we are doing. Then, it is not surprising to realize that you have a lot more habits than you assume.

Social habits such as the ordering of people at a dinner table based on where they are constantly sitting; response routines such as “mm-hmm” and “a-ha” that is constantly said in the working life; eating habits that help us review the excess of food-related choices every day  – and the list can be extended in this way!

Have you noticed that you checked your email for the hundredth time to find out if something interesting came in your inbox? When you continue to do an action even without a reward, you experience what behavioral psychologists call the partial reinforcement extinction effect simply because you are used to doing this action without reward.

Although we rarely receive a reward of a pleasant email, we will continue to automatically renew our inbox in any case as we are accustomed to disappointment.

However, we have other habits that can not be seen: habits of thinking. If the nature of these thinking habits is negative, these habits can be attributed to mental illnesses such as depression.

Whether the thoughts are positive or negative based on our assessment of something we experience. And sometimes we evaluate it in harmful ways.

Assume that you lost your job. If you have a habit of seeing yourself as powerless and innocent, you will have difficulty in fighting against the negative feelings that unemployment brings.

Another form of habit is rumination- to think of something over and over again.

Some say that retrospection allows us to learn from our failures. However, there is a difference between taking advantage of your past experience and getting lost in misery and pain memories.

Chapter 3 – Pleasant habits can be formed.

What you don’t know about habits is that you can manipulate them, although they come from your unconscious. This is really good news, especially if you want to create a new and useful habit.

To create a new habit, follow the three steps below:

Decide your stimulation. There is a need for a comprehensive goal to help you deal with problems. You can use the WOOP-wish, outcome, obstacle, and plan- exercise to set your ultimate goal.

You can start by writing your wish with the best possible result and obstacles you may encounter.

Suppose your wish is to run daily. As your result is to get your body in shape, you can run 10 km and your obstacles will likely be bad weather and physical discomfort.

In the next step, you need to find the right intention to plan and act according to the “if x, then y” decisions. For instance, “if enter a building, I will always use the stairs.”

Positive statements such as “I will go up the stairs” are much more effective than “I don’t use the elevator” since self-denial strengthens the attraction of something-in this case the elevator.

Then don’t forget to repeat your actions as repetition paves the way for automation. If you are not satisfied with your habitual development, try planning to cope:

Find challenging situations such as heavy pouring rainfall or being late for work and come up with the right solutions for your new habit. For example, “if the weather is rainy, I will try my waterproof running equipment.”

In the end, make your habits pleasant habits. One way to do this is to avoid getting used to something and to do something reluctantly. Ironically, “habituation” is the curse of good pleasant habits.

Having happy habits means change. This could mean using different routes to work to continue enjoying cycling or enjoyable techniques like savoring, where you have a break and deliberately enjoy the moment, such as pausing to smell a scented flower.

Chapter 4 – It is difficult to get rid of habits but not impossible for you.

We all want to get rid of some of our bad habits forever. We aim to lose some extra weight or quit smoking. However, it is difficult to change for most of us.

According to a survey conducted at the University of Scranton in the 1980s, 60 percent of 213 people were unable to implement their New Year’s resolutions. So what can we do to get rid of these habits?

First, determine the habit you want to give up. The outcomes of unpleasant habits are usually more pronounced than habits themselves. For example, it is easier to notice that you are overweight or have difficulty breathing if you smoke.

You can use the conscious realization of what you are doing at any given moment, that is your consciousness (mindfulness).

Mindfulness requires some practice. To begin with, you can practice the following exercise:

Loosen your body and sit pleasantly in your favorite chair. Then put your focus on just one thing like breathing. While sitting, be non-judgmental and open-hearted towards yourself and be compassionate to your thoughts and feelings.

This is the first step to quit your bad habits. The more awareness you have, the more you will be conscious of what you are doing, including your habitual actions.

Another important method is to work on your self-control.

Self-control is similar to muscle; it is strengthened by training. Just trying to give up a habit would be beneficial for this workout.

When you are disappointed, remember that we are sometimes prone to overestimate our ability to control ourselves. Say you want to get rid of the bad habit of smoking. It will be good for your willpower to try to wait without smoking.  For example, if you understand that you can spend a week without nicotine, you can try spending two weeks.

Other basic ways to control your habits are: observing behavior, by, say, writing a food diary; distraction, like chewing gum when you want to smoke; and changing your neighborhood- for example, moving to a new apartment where smoking is prohibited.

Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean Book Review

Habits are a big part of our lives. By being a little aware of what habits really are and applying some simple psychological techniques, we can get rid of unpleasant habits and form a new, more useful one.

Take your diet.

Try some of these simple methods to make it easier to stick to your diet:

  •  We are more prone to eat close and visible foods, so leave some fruit on the table rather than cake.
  • Use smaller portions of the plate for your meals. Larger plates will make you eat more than you need.
  • Try to eat with your less dominant hand. This slows down your eating speed, making it easier to understand when you are full. So you can’t eat too much without noticing.

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