Published at 20/01/2024
Notice the Context-Dependence of Your Habit
Habit and memories are context-dependent.
This means the context you are in when you form the habit or memory becomes an associative cue for it. The context can be anything ranging from place, time, item, environment, and task.
The context-dependence of habit is often what makes habit powerful. We can connect a context we are in everyday to remind us to do a good habit.
- By running everyday at 6am, the time context of 6am becomes the cue to our running habit.
- By brushing our teeth every time we shower, taking shower becomes the cue to the habit.
- By not using our bed for other activities except sleep, the bed becomes the cue to sleep.
And it can also be used to restrict bad habits like using social media only at certain time of day.
The problem is when we actually want to form a context independent habit. But we unconsciously practice it in the same context.
I realized this after I finished my bucket-list phase experiment, where I try to make a habit of taking action and being adventurous. However, because I always practice it in the same context of trying new activities, I noticed that I sometimes did not apply the habit in other context. Like being adventurous in food or having more bias for action in work and my projects.
Forming Context-Independent Habit
I think there are two ways you can set a context independent habit:
- Form the habit in one context as it might be easier, then expand the context
- Notice at what context you fail to practice your habit
- For example, I sometimes did not practice bias for action in social interaction, and starting a project.
- Repeat the same habit forming steps in the context one by one
- For example, I might decide to send a message or meet someone every week expand the context to social interaction.
- Consciously practice it in various context the first time you form the habit,
- This might be more difficult, as it may feel like forming many habits at once
- For example
- to form a habit of walking after eating. Practice it in various context whether it’s breakfast, lunch, eating outside, eating at home, eating with people etc.
- Make the cue internal (thought) and something that is present in all context instead of external (see, hear).
- Internal cue would be feeling hungry or act of eating
- External cue would be seeing your own table, specific food, or a restaurant