Perhaps dieting and smoking spring to mind. But our lives are actually full of many habits.
A minimum of one-third of our waking life powered by our unconscious mind. We operate on auto-pilot, not fully cognizant of what we’re doing while we’re doing it.
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It’s not surprising to find you have many more habits than you might think. Social habits, such as who sits where at the family dinner table; work routines like saying “mm hmm” and “a-ha” during meetings; eating habits that help us sift through multitudes of food-related decisions every day – and the list goes on!
Do you ever catch yourself checking your email for the hundredth time only to discover that, still, nothing interesting has arrived in your inbox? We call this the partial reinforcement extinction effect. Why are we repeating the same action, even without reward?
But there are other habits that you can’t see: habits of thought. If they are negative in nature, we can connect these habits to mental illnesses such as depression.
Whether thoughts are positive or negative depends on our appraisal of something that happens to us, and sometimes we appraise in unhealthy ways. Imagine you lost your job. If you’re in the habit of perceiving yourself as powerless and culpable, you’ll have trouble fighting the negative emotions that unemployment entails.
Another type of pattern is rumination – when you think about something repeatedly. Some say that retrospection can help us learn from our supposed failures, but there’s a difference between reviewing your experiences and wallowing in the misery and pain of them.