The Habit Loop


And though we know that the positive rewards of alcohol begin rapidly declining when we continue to drink, that first glass or so does a powerful job reinforcing our habit. Very quickly (especially due to the addictive properties of alcohol), every single time we begin to cook dinner, we also begin to drink.

The Habit Loop is a powerful diagnostic tool to help us break habits we no longer want to have, and build habits that we’d like to begin incorporating. If we are unable to understand the cue behind a habit, it’s exceptionally difficult to make any significant changes. Similarly, if we aren’t able to identify the reward, we don’t really know what our goal is when we’re trying to switch out negative habits for positive habits. With our example above, our cue is beginning to cook dinner. Our reward is the quick state change that alcohol produces—dopamine and a calming of our nerves. What could we put in alcohol’s place that achieves the same reward? Could we swap out an herbal tea, or go for a quick run before we start cooking, or eat a piece of dark chocolate while we cook?

In the coming days, we’ll take a look at how to break, build, and transform our habits. This practice is important for removing alcohol from our lives, but it’s also incredibly powerful in other areas of our life. When we build a life full of good habits, we build a life we no longer need to escape from by drinking alcohol.

Andrews, B. R. (1903.) "Habit". The American Journal of Psychology. 14 (2): 121–49.
Duhigg, C. (2020.) How Habits Work.