A simple way to break a bad habit | Judson Brewer | TED | Summary and Q&A

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February 24, 2016
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TED
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A simple way to break a bad habit | Judson Brewer | TED

TL;DR

By cultivating curiosity and being aware of our habits, we can break free from unhealthy behaviors and form new ones.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does our brain develop habits?

Our brain develops habits through a reward-based learning process. When we engage in a behavior that provides a reward or pleasure, our brain remembers the context and reinforces the behavior for future repetitions.

Q: How can mindfulness training help break habits?

Mindfulness training encourages curiosity and awareness of our habits. By being mindful and curious about our actions, we start to notice the unpleasant aspects of the behavior, leading to a disenchanted stance and a natural letting go of the habit.

Q: How does curiosity play a role in breaking habits?

Curiosity helps us become aware of our habit loops and understand them on a deeper level. When we approach our experiences with curiosity, we can manage cravings and unpleasant sensations, making it easier to let go of old habits and form new ones.

Q: Can mindfulness training be effective in quitting smoking?

Yes, studies have shown that mindfulness training can be twice as effective as standard therapy in helping people quit smoking. By being curious about the experience of smoking, individuals gain a deeper understanding and become disenchanted with the behavior, making it easier to quit.

Q: How does mindfulness training affect the brain?

The brains of experienced meditators show changes in the default mode network, a neural network involved in self-referential processing. Mindfulness training can quiet down the posterior cingulate cortex, a region in this network that gets activated when we become caught up in cravings or addictive behaviors.

Q: Can mindfulness training be applied to other habits, like stress eating or smartphone addiction?

Yes, mindfulness training can be applied to a wide range of habits and addictive behaviors. By cultivating curiosity and being aware of our habits in the present moment, we can step out of unhealthy patterns and form healthier behaviors.

Q: How can technology be used to support mindfulness training?

App and online-based mindfulness training programs are being developed to deliver tools that target the core mechanisms of habit formation. These programs can be accessed easily and provide support to individuals in the contexts that matter most, helping them break free from unhealthy habits.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Our brain is wired to develop habits through reward-based learning processes, which can lead to harmful behaviors like smoking and overeating.

  • Mindfulness training can help break these habits by encouraging curiosity and awareness of the present moment, leading to a disenchanted stance towards the behavior.

  • By embracing curiosity and being mindful, we can step out of old habit patterns, manage cravings, and form healthier behaviors.

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