Here are the four steps, Duhigg mentioned to transform our addictions;
Note: I will use my example to explain how can we work on the given four steps.
- Identify the Routine
Routine is the main element of the loop. The part we want to change, so it’s easy to identify it. In my case, what I wanted to change was my habit of sugar and junk consumption, leading to my weight gain drastically. But every situation is different, so that it can be anything like excessive drinking or smoking.
- Experiment the Rewards
Now comes the tricky part, which is experimenting with the reward, as we have to find the primary reason here for the craving, which has created a vital bridge between cue and reward. It is always challenging to find out which reward satisfies the primitive part to this extent. For this, we have to experiment with different prizes for a few days, and whenever we try new tips, it’s always better to write down the feelings we get right after getting them. It’s pretty easy to identify our longings if we review our past course of actions but hard to recognise when we are under its effect.
I tried many substitutions like taking a glass of milk or munching something like taking a slice of bread or having nuts. It doesn’t matter what we select in exchange for the existing routine. The main point is to test and discover which thing satisfies the urge. For instance, I’m yearning for something sweet glass of milk that will do the job. If I crave some munching, then having nuts will satisfy the longing.
Whatever I felt after each experiment, I wrote that down for future reference. And I found out after taking a proper meal that my craving satisfies when my tummy feels full.
- Isolate the Cue
Now we have to identify the cue. At this stage, we already know about our routine and reward.
As I mentioned earlier, usually, all cues lie in any one of the following categories;
– Emotional state
– Other people
– Action immediately preceding the routine
I started noticing exactly why I started craving. After closely seeing for a few days, I found out that at a particular time, around four o clock, which is usually supper time due to hunger, I go into the state of craving. As I had already experimented with my rewards, I found out that it wasn’t because of my sweet tooth, but, to be precise, I felt hungry that time.
- Have a Plan
To short circuit the loop, we have to set up a plan according to the golden rule (I.e., to keep the cue and reward the same and change the routine).
In my case of sugars and junk consumption habits, I came up with a plan of having a bowl of oats or chickpeas every day at four o clock. It worked for me wonderfully. If you notice here, cues and rewards are exact; I changed routine; instead of consuming sugars or other junk stuff, I started taking a bowl of oats or chickpeas, which is healthy and keeps the tummy full for long.
It took me a long time to adjust to this new plan, but it worked eventually.
The Important Message
In the end, Duhigg mentioned that this hack has a major flaw that is it keeps working until you face any significant heartbreaking period in your life like someone close to you dies or you face a severe financial crisis. Once we face any, we will go back to our old loop. In the times we will need strong willpower to fight through, which only comes with the belief, i.e. the sense of not being alone in our hard times gives immense comfort and satisfaction, and we won’t get triggered.
The main point is there should be some belief no matter what to keep you going and save you from falling into the old loop; otherwise, it will last till life is good with us. It doesn’t need to be the belief of God; whatever idea you have, it will work even if it’s a friend. But with the help of faith, it will change into nature.