Do you understand why you do what you do? Do you understand what contributes to your happiness? Do you understand the psychology and science behind your behaviors?
First, you should because there are a countless forces in the world that do. They understand it really well. They use it to control you. Marketers, politicians, bankers, governments. They use the psychology and science of behavior on you and against you every day.
Second, you should because it’s so easy to enslave yourself with your own behaviors and not be able to break free because you don’t understand how these things work.
Behaviorism is like the Force. It surrounds us. It permeates us. It shapes our world, your world. To not understand it is to be a slave to it.
The good thing is that you can understand it. You can understand it well enough to control your own behavior and well enough to know when others are using it against you. Understanding will allow you to make more informed rational and emotional decisions.
Here are some ideas to begin understanding behavior. The goal here is to take back control. Understanding how control is wrested from you by yourself and others is the first step. I’m not an expert on behavioral science so I’ll throw out resources that seem to be. You can be your own judge on what they mean.
Naturally occurring chemicals play a huge role in how and why we behave the way we do. I’m going to paraphrase from Simon Sinek’s presentation on leadership called “Why Leaders Eat Last” (you should watch it right now: http://99u.com/videos/20272/simon-sinek-why-leaders-eat-last ). He has a book of the same name worth reading.
I’ll share other resources as well to help you dig deeper.
Dopamine is part of our body’s reward system that is geared to help us survive. Dopamine feels good. We’re given hits of dopamine to help us remember and crave behaviors that will help us survive. It is heavily involved in habit formation, both good and bad habits. It’s cited as a key to understanding many addictions.
Things get out of whack when we confuse the dopamine hit with a sense of fulfillment. The feelings from dopamine are much more fleeting than the feelings of fulfillment.
Alcohol, cell phones, video games. They all provide dopamine and the danger of addiction.
Here is a wonderful place to start learning more. There is a lot here to see. Don’t panic. Take it slow.
Here’s a more straight forward article on dopamine and diet:
Serotonin is part of our body’s survival system that gives us feelings of pride and status and is designed to build relationships, because building relationships help us survive as a community. Serotonin feels good. When we give recognition for achievements, the achiever gets serotonin and so do those close to them. Builds bonds. Builds confidence.
Unfortunately, serotonin can be tricked. You can trick it by buying status symbols. Designer this and designer that. You feel good when you buy it or drive it but there is no relationship building that occurs. So it’s empty.
Retail therapy is an easy way to game serotonin. It too is empty and unfulfilling.
Another article on serotonin and nutrition:
Here’s a more general article on the body’s happiness chemicals:
Totally a subset of the dopamine and serotonin thread. Understand how habits work. Don’t be a slave to habit. Understand how it works for good and for bad. This is easy to say and harder to do, but understanding why is a good step. Arm yourself with knowledge.
Here is an excellent book on understanding habit. “The Power of Habit” explains the science. It’s a good place to start. There are then many other good sources on changing habits.
Knowledge is the key. Unlock the handcuffs. Be free.