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Reinforcing Habits

 

Techniques Happiness > Reinforcing Habits

Description | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Review the habits that you have and assess whether they contribute to happiness, have no effect, or make you less happy.

Habits can be what you do, what you say or what you think. Or any combination of these.

Notice habits as they happen. You can tell something is a habit because it is usually unthinking. It also tends to recur and be set off by a distinct trigger.

Then find ways to increase the number and instances of habits that make you happier. Ensure these are useful habits, or at least not harmful. It is easy to do things that make you happier in the short term but which have a longer-term negative effect. You do not want to increase these habits!

Also look for ways to convert, reduce or eliminate habits that make you unhappy and which add no value or which could be done in a happier way.

Discussion

Habits are automated sequences of actions or thoughts that have been conditioned into us, such that a stimulus of some kind triggers the occurrence of the habit. There is also a reward after the habit is completed, typically a better feeling of comfort or satisfaction.

Habits are increased and deepened by repetition. They can be broken by removing the stimulus or interrupting the habit as it is being enacted.

If you can automate happiness increases, you will easily become happier. It is also a good idea to work on reducing habits that reduce happiness.

You can increase a habit by:

  • Doing it more often.
  • Connecting it with a stimulus that happens often.
  • Making the reward more pleasurable.
  • Making each enaction of the habit more powerful.
  • Doing it for longer each time.

And you can reduce a habit by doing the opposite.

Negative, happiness-reducing habits include:

  • Criticizing or otherwise diminishing yourself or other people.
  • Procrastinating or not doing what should be done.
  • Taking drugs that give short-term pleasure but which are damaging in the medium term.
  • Indulging in games that trap you in negative patterns.

Positive, happiness-increasing habits include automatically doing any of the happiness exercises in this section.

See also

Habit, Games, Conditioning

 

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