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Hack your brain to change habits

Picture of Lucas Fraser
Lucas Fraser
// // Covid-19 has given us all a chance to reexamine our habits, and perhaps change a few ...

// Covid-19 has given us all a chance to reexamine our habits, and perhaps change a few …

We all have habits. Things we do without thinking. We might have the same breakfast every morning, or have lunch around the same time every day, watch the same TV shows in the evening.

Habits like these are useful as it stops us from becoming overwhelmed by the number of decisions we make every day, so we can focus on the important stuff.

Unfortunately, some habits can cost you money.

For example, before Covid you might been in the habit of buying lunch every day from the place near work, or after a long day at work, you might get dropped in to have a drink or two.

We have these habits because they’re an easy and enjoyable solution in the short term, but they can drain your bank account over time.

For example, if you get a $13 lunch every work day, that’s $65 a week, $3K a year. That can buy you more than 6,000 toilet rolls…

Hack your brain to change habits
The less money you spend on habits, the more you can spend on other things… (Source: Adan Paper)

If you understand how your brain creates habits, then you can shift those habits to more positive ones. If you want to.

The result of this will be that you become more aware of your spending, and you can then start to spend less and save more.

How do we form habits?

If you repeat the same behaviour over and over again, that behaviour will then be copied to another part your brain, which is called the Basal Ganglia.

Once a habit is set, a familiar trigger will activate it, such as a specific time or event. As a result, 45% of our decisions are made without thought.

The habit is also continually reinforced with a reward, like food or a drink.

How to change your habit

Identify Cues: When you next spend money on a something, figure out what triggered it, like a location, time, person, or event.

Understand why you do this: Determine all the possible rewards you gain from your habit. For example, walking to a fast food place allows you to take a break and have a tasty meal. Was there another option?

Replace the action: Watch out for your trigger and don’t always engage in the habit when you feel the urge to. Instead of walking to that fast food (take away of course) place, just take a walk elsewhere.

Ensure the same reward: You should ask yourself if your new habit fulfills the same need for reward. Taking a walk allows you to have a break, but you might still want that bite to eat. Make yourself something from home, which saves you money.  

Repeat the process: It takes 66 days to form a habit, so hang in there.

Hack your brain to change habits
(Source: Cat in the Hat (2003))

Many of your habits have been broken due to the current situation, so it’s a great time to rethink what you’ve automatically done, and reset something that you believe would be better for you.

… such as exercise, healthy eating, spending quality time with family, ringing friends, reading books, playing board games, home cooking… why not keep these new habits when the world returns to normal?


Main Photo by David Cassolato from Pexels

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Picture of Lucas Fraser

Lucas Fraser

Lucas is in his last year studying Software Engineering at Curtin University. He has a strong interest in the aerospace and space industries, as well as social entrepreneurship. He is also the current Vice President of the Curtin Aerospace Club
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