Habit Optimization for Emotional Stability

Habit Optimization for Emotional Stability

toothpasteOver the years I’ve noticed that there are micro-patterns in everyday routines that are markers of larger conditions. Let’s say for instance if I don’t make my bed on a certain day I’m less likely to be interested in doing detailed oriented work. Or if I take an overly long shower, the chances of me being in a sub-optimal or down emotional state are greatly increased.

You could say that the markers of long showers or an unkempt bed are the symptoms of the conditions I just described and not the causes and you’d be correct. But what if you can change your mood by simply forcing yourself to do the task as if you were in the desired state? I’ve been experimenting with this for the past few weeks and so far the signs are looking pretty good.

I started with a simple one to test the theory and that’s my morning shower. I can easily spend 30 minutes steaming my eyeballs out when I’m just not ready to face the day or if I’m feeling particularly depressed or downbeat. If I do take that extra time the rest of the day might as well be a wash because it’s just misery and all I want to do is go back to bed to try again the next day. So I came up with a way to supercharge my shower and get me in and out. When I turn on the water I blast a song through the speakers in the bathroom and give myself to the end of that song to finish. I’ve been partial to The Crystal Method or Prodigy lately but any upbeat song that gets you moving would probably work.

There are no consequences for going past the song because all I’m doing is letting myself down and that’s a worse punishment and better motivator than anything tangible in my opinion. Since I’ve started this I’ve only missed one song so far and that was by about 15 seconds because I was exfoliating. Yeah, I said it. But the anecdotal evidence so far suggests that it’s working. I haven’t had any emotionally bad days since I’ve started and there are a few great a knock-on effects. Once I finish the fast shower I am more inclined to shave, make my bed, as well as other tasks that act as markers for my emotional health and energy for the day.

A lot of self-helpy gurus will tell you that your physiology affects your state and they’re right to a point. Tony Robbins was saying this almost 20 years ago but this is a little different from biting on a pencil to make yourself smile or sitting-up to feel more powerful. All those gimmicks are short-term feel-good tricks that play well with a studio audience but wear off quickly. I’m trying to create an all day emotional change by tweaking a few key actions (that I’m going to be doing already) to keep myself in the emotional and energy bounds of normalcy and not spike too high on either side of the spectrum.

It’s early days for sure and I’m going to be keeping track of this and reporting back in a few weeks. The death of Dr. Seth Roberts has impacted me greatly lately and as a side effect I’ve been re-energized to do more self-hacking and tracking to improve aspects of myself that I’ve lost over the last 2 decades. Also to make the most of what time I’ve got left because as Seth showed us, it can go at any time. I hope that habit optimization will be my first win but even if it’s not, the experiments themselves are fun and exciting!

Takeaway: Think about all your daily habits that you have to do like showering, making your bed, brushing your teeth and so on and keep a journal that tracks if you did them, when you did them, and for what duration. Along side that track your emotions throughout the day and see if you can pick up on patterns in the noise. We do these things every day and they become engrained but we almost never do them the same way twice which can give us insights into ourselves.

flattr this!

1 Comment

  1. I’ve seen (and heard) it said that simply smiling – forcing a smile – releases the brain chemicals that make you feel happier. I’ve tried it, and simply smiling merely makes you feel (and look) like a retard. But smiling and taking a few seconds to remember two or three things in your life that make you happy (a friend’s success, a good bit of work you did, an awesome meal, a movie you’re looking forward to, the cute thing your cat did that morning) can gently nudge you out of a significant rut and make the rest of the day more successful.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *