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Breaking Bad Habits

Notice the urge, get curious, feel the joy of letting go, and repeat”, those were the last words of Psychiatrist Judson Brewer in the #TedTalk attached. According to an article in by Katie Sullivan (2014), 69% of healthcare respondents of a study on stress said they “felt stressed,” with 17% considering themselves to be “highly stressed.” One can only imagine what percentage of #HealthcareLeaders feel highly stressed and how often the emotion is felt weekly. Unfortunately, stress is often a precursor to bad habits. Bad habits fuel our inability to perform effectively, the cycle goes on. Stress in #Healthcare is certainly a topic of discussion, but let’s explore bad habits for a moment.

In this #TedTalk, Dr. Brewer points to mindfulness as a way to break bad habits. He initially describes how bad habits develop. When the desired trigger is presented, a behavior is learned & acted upon, a reward is felt, and the cycle repeated. For example, I was at a staff meeting the other night and cake was served as part of our monthly birthday celebration. I knew I needed not eat cake, considering I had a large muffin for breakfast and a donut as a snack. However, I was triggered to have a bite of the scrumptious looking cake by remembering I liked Costco’s cake, I had a slice (behavior), it tasted real good (reward), and I’ll likely do that again in a similar setting: Trigger, Behavior, Reward, and Repeat.

Judson then proposed that we use this same cycle to break the bad habit by being mindful; in essence be aware. He says to notice the urge (trigger), be curious about it and work actively at not indulging (behavior), feel the joy of overcoming the urge (reward), and repeat the feeling when the urge returns. As healthcare leaders we need to practice what we preach, which is to live healthy lives. Breaking bad habits could be difficult, but just maybe, this mindfulness thing could help.

Best wishes,


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