I was expecting something more self-helpy and less researchy but I’m so glad I was wrong. Not only did a learn how to change my own habits – I understand how they form and how marketers use them to get us to spend money. And through all of it I was completely fascinated.
One of the things that I thought was most interesting was the story of how toothpaste and toothbrushing because the norm in the our culture. I thought people had bad teeth until toothpaste was invented. But toothpaste was invented ages before it became common place. Pepsodent was the first toothpaste company to become popular and it’s because they used the habit cycle. The ads talked about running your tongue over your teeth and the film you feel, after you brush them, the film is gone.
For behaviors to become habits, they need a cue and an immediate reward. For Pepsodent, the cue to brush your teeth was the feeling of film on your teeth. The reward, was the tingly feeling after! Maybe this is boring for you guys but as someone that strives to use natural products this was a big moment for me. So allow me to take you on a brief tangent.
The reason your teeth feel cleaner after you use a commercial toothpaste than a homemade one or a natural one is because the commercial ones have a strong flavor AND chemical additives that make your mouth tingle. We think of that tingle as feeling fresh. The additives serve NO OTHER PURPOSE when it comes to oral health. Your teeth are actually totally fresh without the tingle. Those sneaky companies! But really, we can’t be too mad because before that, tooth paste and cleansing powders existed but no one used them. Now, it’s a cultural habit to brush twice a day. Now that it’s a habit, I’m sticking with natural options, no tingle but still clean.
This was also huge a huge ah-ha for me because I would have thought the reward for tooth brushing would be healthy teeth, but it’s not, it’s a fresh feeling mouth. This is the key, the reward needs to be instant. I don’t know about you, but for me, this explains why I have failed every time I try to make exercise a habit. I’ve always set the reward as something like a new swimsuit or a vacation, it’s always some big thing in the future. To build a habit it all needs to happen quickly.
A better way to build a habit of exercise would be to find a cue, something like that as soon as you get off of work you go to the gym (cue) and when you finish you feel endorphins and drink a delicious smoothie. I’ve realized that when it comes to creating my own healthy habits I need to focus more on creating a cue for myself than a reward, because with exercise, the endorphins might be enough of a reward.
What habits would you like create for yourself? Any you are looking to break? Have you read this book? What was most interesting for you?