489. Better Addictions

The reason bad habits, I’ve found, tend to be more seductive than other activities is not because they feel intrinsically better and we just don’t want to admit it.

A habit is just as much a product of habit … repeated actions that stimulate centers in the physical brain that gives instead feelings of reward and therefore become more, well, powerful the more they are stimulated. It is a vicious circle.

I’ve found that giving up social media for a period, for example, does not make me long back for social media instead of its replacement – more drawing. If I keep up drawing I begin soon to get as much pleasure from relaxing with that activity, the lack of social confirmation (a powerful habit) notwithstanding.

Habits can be replaced with other habits. The challenges is getting to a point where you can mobilize the will and discipline to take the first steps to break a habit, and then keep going until it is broken.

Then you may well think after some time: Why on earth did I ever have that old habit in the first place, when it gave me so little reward?

Unfortunately, any reward that fires the right brain centers, chocolate or social media or productive creative activity, is, I believe, indistinguishable in the physical brain we are settled with to live in this world. It just feels … reward. And stronger reward when something is repeated.

Sure, there can be a hollowness beneath it all which become more pronounced the more you repeat a habit (addiction) to gain the same reward. 4 hours of social media instead of 2 per day. And you don’t understand why it feels hollow and unsatisfying still. So you repeat and hope for a better result.

The only better result comes from getting a better habit. Or a better addiction.