Dec 19, 2020

Make or break associations

Your brain is a prediction machine. It has an amazing ability to form associations between two unrelated actions. If it recognizes a pattern of activities have been associated with one another, performing one action can trigger the other.

This mechanism is a double-edged sword. It can make bad habits difficult to break but you can also use it to form good habits.

One bad association that I have is watching YouTube and eating. I’ve spent so much time doing both together that doing one induces the other. Whenever I am eating, I crave a video. And whenever I’m watching a video, I crave food. There’s nothing about a video that is actually hunger-inducing but my mind has created the association.

Another bad association I have is the link between drinking alcohol and having fun. Some people might disagree with this one but I don’t think alcohol is actually any fun. I think I’ve just spent my entire adult life only doing fun things while drunk so my mind has made the association.

Associations aren’t always negative though. I’ve also associated working out with listening to a good podcast. This makes me excited for my workouts because I know that I will get to have time to do something I enjoy. I also have a song that I listen to on repeat that cues me to sit down and write this blog or do other creative work.

What associations do you have? Noticing your associations is useful for habit change. Be mindful of the ones that are causing bad habits and use this feature of your brain to form good ones.