Cue, routine, and reward. This three-step process is known as a habit loop. This determines how our brains function and how we react to circumstances or emotions without conscious thought. The habit loop gives a person the power to manage and perform daily tasks, even if his memory gets lost.
This is what American journalist and non-fiction author Charles Duhigg explained in his book “The Power of Habit”. In the first chapter of the book, Duhigg gave a clear exposition of how the habit loops work. He reflected on a few studies of people who perfectly exhibited how the neurological loop governs a person’s habit.
In the Habit Loops chapter, the author presented Eugene’s case, a man who lost his memory but could still manage to perform his routines. Eugene kept repeating his actions – eating and watching the same channel – because he had memory of having already done these actions. But he could still manage to find his way home when he was out without a companion. His ability to recognise his house’s exact location was believed to be the work of his habit loop.
Our habit loop is a significant part of our being human. Because of it, our brains can save energy when we do our routine works. We don’t have to pay much attention when we brush our teeth, take a shower, lift our spoon or sit on the chair.
However, as Duhigg explained, not all the habits we have stored in the habit loop are good. Smoking, overeating, drinking, taking illegal drugs and even excessive usage of social networking sites are just a few examples of the common bad habits.
Here’s a good news: habits can change. And changing them takes the same process we used to obtain them in the first place – cue, routine and reward.
The golden rule of habit change involves keeping the cue, changing the routine and keeping the reward. For example, when stressed, you can avoid consuming cigarettes or sugary food like what you used to do. A healthier routine can be established. You can socialise with other people or do some exercises. These things will give you the same sense of reward.
Duhigg further explained that the change of routine should give the person exactly the same satisfaction, or else your brain programming won’t accept the change and the shift of habit would be impossible.
For decades, advertisers have used this technique to promote their clients’ products. It also works for Alcoholic Anonymous organisations, to help cutting down alcoholism and other bad habits.
Habit is proven to be incredibly powerful. In cases such as addictive tendencies, the golden rule of habit change is not enough to help addicts overcome their addictions or bad habits. Many have ended up relapsing. The author gave a complete and relatable explanation how our thoughts and beliefs can be a key to permanent sobriety.
Duhigg’s book, presented in a combination of extensive research and simplified terms, is a perfect grab for those who want to have a better and deeper understanding of human behaviours and routines.