Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Breaking My Habit, Day 1: A New Project!

Today I found this nice article in Quora Blog, featured in Slate. By the way, for those of you who never visit Quora, you should give it a try. Users can post and answer all kinds of questions as well as up-vote or down-vote the answers. Whole spectrum of topics are covered, from the most serious (about business, startups, etc) to the most absurd (such as this).

So, back to the article, it basically talks about the nature of our habits. I'll try to summarize the article here, but please read the original ones if you have the time, it's really amazing.

Our habit, be it good or bad, came from our repetitious action. Each of our action is connected to a specific neuropeptide (neuro = nerve, peptide = protein). Whenever we do one specific action, the corresponding neuropeptides are released from the brain throughout our body. These neuropeptides will then be captured by specific receptors  on human cells, which will basically makes our bodies "remember" which action gave us which feeling. The more we perform this specific action, more neuropeptides are released, more receptors are synthesized in our cells. Eventually, you'll need to perform more of this action to feel "high".


Fig 1. Opioid Receptors throughout our body

For example, you are feeling sad. You have nobody to talk to, so to cheer yourself up, you grab a bar of chocolate. The sweet taste of chocolate, yum! The neuropeptides are released from the brain, flooded your entire body, makes you feel happy. Your body now connects "chocolate" with the feeling of "happiness", so whenever you're sad and in need of happiness, you will seek a bar of chocolate. Next thing you know, you'll grab a chocolate whenever you're feeling uneasy (exchange chocolate with cigarette / biting finger nails / etc). This is how your habits are formed.

To break free from this vicious cycle, you have to let your receptors count in your cell to its native state. The article suggest giving your body 45-56 days of habit detox to achieve this. By that time, the cells in your body would've been cleansed of their neuropeptide addiction, releasing you from the bad habit.

After reading the article, somehow I got motivated to get rid of my own bad habits. I also wanted to proof the 45-56 days claim of the article (every claim must be tested, said my old statistics teacher). So,  today I made a personal oath:


I, Audi Tri Harsono, for 40 consecutive days starting on May 7th will stop eating snacks and playing flash games.


It starts today. I'll post an update each day so that my progress can be tracked (and as a filler for my newfound extra spare time I guess). Just watch me, people!