The return of bad habits

It’s been a while since I posted…six months.


See, I haven’t made a habit of posting. And habits…are <em>tangentially</em> related to what I wanted to talk about. (I have Charles Duhigg’s <cite>The Power Of Habit</em> sitting here as an audiobook, waiting to be listened to, but I haven’t done that yet.)

You might have heard somewhere that it takes three weeks to establish a habit. I can tell you that it is not true for me. Six weeks might work, but there is still the chance that I will backslide.

If it’s a particularly unpleasant task, after years there is the chance I will backslide.

Now, the current speech I hear is that ADHD is related to problems or underdevelopment of the executive functions portion of the brain, such as inhibition. Those can grow or shrink or be otherwise modified through practice. (In fact, I suddenly suspect this is part of the practice of meditation: the need to exercise control over the self might lead to the encouragement of those functions, especially if they’re located in one or two section of the brain. I digress.) Habits increase the inhibition areas of your brain, at least in areas related to the habit. You inhibit behaviours X, Y, and Z until your habit is complete.

Except as I’ve always practiced it, creating habits doesn’t necessarily carry over to other areas.

I have also noticed that bad habits never go away: they’re always lurking there, waiting to re-establish themselves. I think this is probably something to be aware of: when everything is going well, you can’t abandon what has made your life go well. (Yes, there’s an edge condition where following the new behaviour is magical thinking; those are rare.)

So: in times of great stress, you might fall back into old habits. And, perhaps equally importantly, when everything is going well, you might also fall back into old habits.

I have Charles Duhrig’s Habit here on audiobook, so I’m going to give it a listen.