Hey smart people, Joe here.
What if I told you
that the reason you had minty-fresh breath this morning was because
100 years ago an advertiser named Claude C. Hopkins
was having trouble selling a brand of toothpaste?
He needed to convince people that brushing their teeth should be a daily routine,
and back then, it wasn’t for most people.
In the end he was able to get
half the American public to pick up a new behavior
and repeat it every single day, and pay money for his toothpaste.
How did he do it?
By tapping into neuroscience and decoding the awesome power of habits.
We’ve all got them.
You can probably think of a few of your own.
I always seem to tap my feet when I’m trying to sit still.
And I find myself biting my nails whenever
I’m focused on reading or watching a movie.
I don’t consciously think about doing these things.
That’s because I’ve done them so often that they’ve become a habit.
We know habits as things we do automatically,
我们潜意识里的任务 像走路 或是击掌
tasks we do subconsciously, like walking or high fiving.
And there’s a ton of things that technically count as habits,
and they can be good or bad.
So why do we form habits?
And how do we learn new ones, or un-learn old ones?
If you’ve ever taken the same path to school or work,
then you likely have that pathway burned into your brain.
You can probably walk it without really paying attention.
Habits are built in a similar way.
New neural pathways are formed when you repeat a behavior.
And the more a brain circuit fires,
the easier it becomes for our brain to do whatever that
circuit controls, without conscious thought.
Think back to how you learned to ride a bike.
At first, riding a bike is tough.
You’ve got to learn how to
平衡 拐弯 所有这些
pedal and balance and turn all at the same time.
You have to consciously think about each action.
This happens in an area of your brain called the prefrontal cortex,
the part associated with complex thought.
But eventually, after you ride enough,
you no longer have to consciously think about
each individual action.
Riding a bike has become a habit,
and now it’s controlled by different parts of your brain.
One area involved in habitual behavior is the striatum,
which actually releases chemicals
that inhibit the complex thinking part of your brain for that task.
This is your brain being efficient.
By turning down your brain’s thinking requirements
for bike riding, it’s free to think other things,
like ” how exactly do igloos keepyou warm?”
Let’s go back to Claude Hopkins and his toothpaste scheme.
Claude realized habits have three key ingredients.
A cue, a behavior, and a reward.
A cue is something that triggers a behavior,
like how the alarm clock triggers you punching
the snooze button, and this is followed by the reward –
9 sweet extra minutes of sleep
Claude got people thinking about that slimy film on your teeth in the morning,
Thanks to bacteria that colonize your mouth overnight.
The sticky film is the cue that triggers brushing behavior.
What was the reward?
Claude convinced people this film would make their smile look ugly
and a prettier smile was the reward for brushing.
Claude understood that with the right cue and the right reward,
you could entice people to do just about whatever behavior you wanted.
But what he didn’t know was that rewarding a behavior can actually create a craving,
and this is what makes habits so strong.
Scientists now know that special neurons in the brain can fire and give us chemical rewards.
But what’s weird is that once a habit
and a reward are tied together in our brain,
those reward neurons start firing even before you do the behavior.
This is what causes craving,
and it’s why you want popcorn when you go to the movies,
why you pick up your bad habits when you see other people doing them,
and why habits are so hard to break.
Claude knew a prettier smile would be a reward that would make people brush,
but he didn’t anticipate that over time people would
subconsciously start craving the minty tingle that Pepsodent left in their mouths.
People’s brains actually started to crave toothbrushing.
So how can you train yourself to pick up a new habit, like eating an apple a day.
还有 如果你有个坏习惯 你能改掉它吗
And if you’ve got a bad habit, can you break it,
or are you stuck with it forever?
Scientists used to think that our brains didn’t change all that much once we reached adulthood,
like concrete once it’s solidified.
But it turns out your brain is much more like clay –
it’s a super flexible organ.
The chemistry of your brain is constantly changing
as you go about your day, in response to everything from learning to moving to hunger.
These chemical releases are short lived, but over time,
if the same behaviors are repeated,
the physical structure of the brain is actually changed.
You create new neural pathways.
And because the neural network has changed,
so does the way the information flows.
When a behavior is repeated often enough, a habit is formed.
There’s a famous idea that a new skill is learned by putting in 10,000 hours of work,
but it’s not that simple.
The amount of time differs hugely between tasks and between people.
What’s for sure is that when it comes to making a habit,
whether it’s learning guitar or meditation, there’s simply no substitute for repetition.
The reason bad habits are so hard to break is
because you have literally woven new neural networks into your brain.
That doesn’t go away overnight.
So give yourself a break.
And if you’re trying to change a habit,
know that it’s usually best to try and replace bad behavior with a new behavior
instead of just trying to erase the pattern altogether.
The good thing is that now you know you have the power to change your brain.
It’s as easy as brushing your teeth.
And if you haven’t already made it a habit – Stay Curious.