Have you ever thought of why you live the way you do? Why you do what you do every day, why you buy what you buy and why you have set routines for almost every instance in your life? A lot of human behaviour can be trickled down to simply understanding how habits work and how they come about. In fact, much of the world can be understood from this simple understanding of what is known as ‘the habit loop’.

Habits from a neurological perspective, are formed in the basil ganglia – a rather lowly evolved portion of the human brain. It sits underneath normal cognition and fires based on ‘instinct’. When you perform an action, you get some type of response back. For example, video games may give you the joy of defeating the opponent. Or perhaps, they act as an escape from an otherwise depressing point of your life. Regardless, there is a positive outcome to playing video games. Just like any other positively rewarding stimulus, your body may develop ‘triggers’ that cause you to want to play video games. Perhaps something bad happened at work today, or your girlfriend broke up with you. Your brain ends up seeking relief, and turns to whichever actions bring about the most amount of positive results.

After this happens a few times, the basil ganglia ends up automating this process to triggers. Have you ever wondered why you get ‘urges’? It’s simply because whatever you’re urging has given you joy or relief in the past, and your body knows that. Cigarettes, drugs, video games, sports, the gym, coffee or what have you all end up in this category of actions that can be triggered.

Let’s take a short digression into marketing. Have you ever wondered why toothpaste foams? Toothpaste is meant to act as an abrasive layer between the bristles of your brush and your teeth. This abrasiveness helps remove plague and surface stains. It doesn’t have to foam at all, but this foaming action makes people feel like it’s cleaning. Millions of people wake up every morning for that sense of cleanliness, and use toothpaste that has this foaming effect. It’s used in commercials, and at this point, has become engraved in our lives. The same goes for shampoo. Why does shampoo lather? It certainly doesn’t have to, but it feels good when it does, doesn’t it?

These businesses have built their products up on the sole foundation of their understanding of habits. The trigger for brushing your teeth is bad breath or even just waking up on the morning. You reach for the toothbrush without even thinking about it, all thanks to your basil ganglia. So much psychological thought goes into the products you use everyday, so that you consume without even realizing it. Now i’m not saying bad breath is a good thing when it comes to everyday life, but it’s just food for thought! Shampoo on the other hand, only foams to make you feel relief when you use it. Hey, you may just use more than is necessary, just for that trigger and positive response action to occur. Think about it. If the population uses just 10% more shampoo every single shower, that’s a 10% increase in profits. For a company that brings in 500 million a year, that’s 50 million dollars more in their pocket than in yours.

So, whenever you’re watching commercials or whenever you crave some action – take a step back. Understand why you’re doing so, and you just may end up gaining a little more control over your life. Never make the mistake of thinking life isn’t thought out to the smallest detail when it comes to making money.

The next time you’re at the mall, take notice of where the foodcourt is. Take notice of where Cinnabon is, and try to uncover the reason why you can smell it from so far away. These companies understand basic psychology, and use more of it than you probably even realize.

Habits arm themselves with human psychology. Your defence is therefore, understanding yourself and why you make the choices you make.

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