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How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits

How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits

Do you struggle with overcoming bad habits? Do you find it difficult to stick with an exercise routine and constantly find yourself back where you started?

If so, what would you think if I told you that you could reprogram your brain and break bad habits similar to how a computer programmer programs code? Sounds crazy right? Yet, it’s not.

Similar to programming computer code, it is possible to reprogram deeply ingrained habits. Computer coding is a perfect metaphor for writing, hacking, or reprogramming our own instructions. We see this when we compare computer coding to habit formation. Think of trying to break bad habits and form new positive habits. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit remarked,

What we know from lab studies is that it’s never too late to break a habit. Habits are malleable throughout your entire life. But we also know that the best way to change a habit is to understand its structure – that once you tell people about the cue and the reward and you force them to recognize what those factors are in a behavior, it becomes much, much easier to change.

So what exactly is computer coding, habit formation, and how can we reprogram our deeply ingrained habits?

What is Coding?

Coding is a finished set of instructions known as a program. We must write a code in a specific way for the program to work. In essence, we must write code in a language for which a computer can understand it. Many different computer languages exist, such as: HTML5, CSS, C, C++, Python, and JavaScript.

Think of our life as a finished set of instructions. In order to reprogram it, we must write our own code in a way that will change our bad habits. Essentially, we must find a reward system our mind and body can latch on to.

Vomputer code is similar to human DNA and it operates exactly like the code in computer software. Juan Enriquez informs us,[1]

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Sequencing DNA decodes its programmatic intentions through its relationship to a combination of four letters of our alphabet: A, C, T, and G.

DNA is a self-replicating material present in all living life-forms and carries our genetic information. Tom Bunzel demonstrates the similarities in his book DNA is Software, Who “Wrote” the Code?  by placing a sequenced genetic code side by side with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), which is the code for a web page.

    Coding as a Metaphor for Writing Instructions for Life

    My intent here is not to ask who or what wrote our life code (or even how it is done). My intent is to demonstrate that computer programming language (code) is a metaphor for life. The computer program is our life, where the computer code is our habits.

      We can change our habits and switch genes off and on through epigenetics. We know that contemporary geneticists are able to switch genes on and off using DNA internal software. Essentially, they are copying and pasting code.[2]

      Moreover, coding is writing instructions for computers, where a finished set of instructions is a computer program. Life is no different. Just as coding is writing instructions for a computer, our daily actions and habits are writing instructions for life. Learning to code will create a better computer program, so why not learn your code to build a better you?

      Coding (Habit Breaking) Instructions

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        Charles Duhigg writes that every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a “habit loop” which is a three-part process.[3]

        First, we find the cue or trigger informing our brain to go into automatic mode. Second, we identify the routine, which is the behavior itself. Third, we identify the reward, which is the thing that makes our brain remember the “habit loop” in the future.

        Let’s examine how Duhigg used the “habit loop” to break his habit of going to the cafeteria and buying a chocolate chip cookie every afternoon.

          Step 1: Identify the routine

          Similar to understanding the structure and components of computer code, Duhigg writes that we must first understand the components of our loop.

          Step 2: Experiment with rewards

          We use specific inputs when we code, so why not change the inputs to see if we get a different output. Similarly, Duhigg experimented with his reward by adjusting his routine to see if it would deliver a different type of reward. For example, instead of walking to the cafeteria, he walked around the block.

          Step 3: Isolate the cue

          Duhigg says that we can ask ourselves (and record our answers) five things the moment an urge hits us in order to diagnose our habit. These questions are key to hacking our code (habits).

          1. Where are you?
          2. What time is it?
          3. What’s your emotional state?
          4. Who else is around?
          5. What action preceded the urge?

          Step 4: Have a plan

          Duhigg found once we figure out our “habit loop” we can shift our behavior. This is similar to rewriting code.

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          “Put another way, a habit is a formula our brain automatically follows: When I see CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD.” – Charles Duhigg

          Following Duhigg’s advice, we can reprogram or hack our code (habits) by actively making choices. We do this by making plans and a great strategy for this is through implementation intentions.

          If-Then Strategy

          An “If-Then” strategy is no different than computer language. IF you write a code, THEN you will get an output.

          This is where the computer coding // human life metaphor makes the most sense to me. For example, let’s first imagine we are born as a blank smartphone.

            Now let’s visualize two different outputs for a sprite or image on our phone (representing us). This image represents two possibilities for our future life. We can become a healthy and fit person or we can become an overweight and depressed person.

              We must learn to code or write instructions in order to become the healthy and fit person. Essentially, we must learn to reprogram (or code) our life.

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              We can write instructions for our finished program (our life). I have identified specific instructions coded for my life in the image below. These instructions can also be imagined as habits.

              Let’s examine some of the larger blocks of code I have built (where the output has created a healthy and fit person): morning routine, exercise, nutrition, water, knowledge, education, family, spirituality, and employment.

                Essentially, IF we following a morning routine, we can THEN jump start a healthy morning workout.

                IF we exercise, hydrate and eat right, we can THEN look and feel better.

                IF we strive to improve our knowledge and experience a close relationship with our family, THEN we can live a happy and healthy life.

                  More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

                  Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

                  Reference

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                  Dr. Jamie Schwandt

                  Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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                  Last Updated on October 9, 2020

                  Find out How to Study Effectively With These 6 Tips

                  Find out How to Study Effectively With These 6 Tips

                  Learning is a lifelong endeavor and one that we can all hopefully learn to enjoy. One way to boost learning is through effective study techniques and habits. Once you learn how to study effectively, learning will get significantly easier, both in the classroom and out.

                  There are several study habits that are pivotal to know in order to study effectively and properly. These techniques could be the deciding factor as to whether you pass or fail or, more importantly, learn. These 6 techniques will help you learn how to study effectively.

                  1. Take Notes

                  In order to study, a person is required to understand what he or she is learning. A great way of understanding/learning is by making notes of the content you are reading[1]. Note-taking may including making linear notes, diagrams, charts, etc.

                  The key to taking notes when learning how to study effectively is limiting your notes to the most important and complex information, and making it all as simple as possible. Trying to write down everything you hear is a recipe for disaster, as you will simply become overwhelmed when looking back at what you’ve written.

                  An exceptional note making style is using summaries. Summaries are a written record of all the important points in a short and concise version. They’re excellent for using when an exam is fast approaching. However, if this doesn’t work for the subject matter or if you’re more creative, try mapping instead[2].

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                  Use mind mapping when learning how to study effectively.

                    2. Practice

                    Studying is meant to enable you to apply your learned knowledge to real life situations, so if you want to learn how to study effectively, focus on practice.

                    The best way to study is by practicing with realistic examples and questions. As one TED article points out, “Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence”[3].

                    For example, if you have a big interview coming up, how will you prepare for it? You’ll likely study types of questions typically asked in interviews. The most effective next step would be finding a friend to do a mock-interview with you. One article points out that “a mock interview helps you learn how to answer difficult questions, develop interview strategies, improve your communication skills, and reduce your stress before an actual job interview”[4].

                    Placing yourself in these kinds of practice testing situations will help you recreate the emotions you’ll likely feel in the actual situation, so you won’t be taken off guard when the time comes.

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                    3. Improve Your Study Area

                    Often enough, we study in a place that we feel comfortable in, but this has both pros and cons. Make sure that the room you’re studying in is not too cold or too warm. A cold room will make you feel uneasy, whereas an overly warm room will make you feel lethargic and lazy.

                    Ensure that it’s not in an area with a lot of traffic that will work to distract you. If there is a lot of distracting background noise, consider putting on some relaxing music to drown it out[5].

                    Furthermore, ensure that your study space is free of clutter. Research shows that clutter significantly increases chances of procrastination[6]. Other studies have suggested that having excess clutter can increase stress and levels of cortisol. Therefore, if you really want a productive study hour, make sure your workspace is clean first.

                    4. Eliminate Distractions

                    You may need to decipher between a distraction and an interruption when learning how to study effectively. A distraction can come in the form of open social media pages or a crying child, whereas an interruption can be anything from a phone ringing to an unexpected visitor showing up.

                    While interruptions are nearly impossible to control, it is possible to eliminate the majority of distractions for certain periods of time. Choose a time when you’re alone or it’s quiet enough for you to study. It takes a lot of concentration to study properly, and there’s no guarantee that you can focus again once your train of thought is disturbed.

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                    If you have to use your computer to study, close out of all social media pages. If you have small children, ask your partner to keep them occupied in the meantime. There is often a solution for the distractions that each of us have to deal with in life, so get creative.

                    5. Set Goals

                    In order to make progress with your studies when learning how to study effectively, it’s great if you set mini goals or objectives for yourself. Set out an allocated amount of work you want to complete for a day and make sure you do it. Every time you accomplish a mini goal, reward yourself with some free time. This will assure that you’re properly motivated and certainly won’t suffer from a burn out from over-studying.

                    Deadlines can be hugely helpful in motivating us to get things done. One study suggests that “as we approach a deadline, or get near to completing a task, this has the effect of reducing ‘opportunity costs’ – essentially, the lure of all the other things you could be doing instead”[7].

                    If you know you have a big exam coming up in a day or two, make a deadline for yourself. For example, tell yourself: “I will read these three chapters before 10 pm tonight.” You can even set a reward for when you complete your goal on time.

                    You can read more on creating effective deadlines in this article.

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                    6. Follow a Healthy Routine

                    When learning how to study effectively, a healthy routine is important to your success. Your body needs to brace itself for intense studying, which is why you should get at least 8 hours of sleep, keeping in mind that the amount of time you sleep before 12 counts the most.

                    Have a proper diet, including not living off energy drinks or takeout. A proper diet consists of 3 to 5 meals a day with average portions. If you need energy, opt for whole grains instead of processed grains to ensure your body is able to slowly process the food, offering consistent energy for the study session ahead.

                    The greatest obstacle to face is having a balanced lifestyle, as studying is very time and energy consuming, which is why an overall healthy lifestyle is highly recommended.

                    Final Thoughts

                    Whether you’re studying for a big interview, a final exam, or a certification, learning how to study effectively is crucial to your success. Follow the tips above to ensure that the time you spend studying is time used well.

                    More Tips on Studying Effectively

                    Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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