Humans are creatures of habit. People tend to learn or create a method of doing things and stick with it. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It only becomes a bad thing if we're doing the wrong things. The "wrong things" include anything that does not serve you. An example of this is consuming a product or performing a task that you know is extremely bad for you regardless of the consequences. When the wrong things become habitual, or ritual, that is when we encounter problems.
I have become an avid player of video games over this past year. This has become a problem not because the game is bad, but because I have a tendency to keep playing once I start. I've realized that sometimes an entire day can pass while I play. This has spurred me to come up with and begin to use the reward system.
When training an animal it has been found that positive reenforcement works much better than punishment. This is the basis for the reward system. The physical body is a chemical playground. There are many, many different chemicals and interactions going on in your body. One of these compounds goes by the name "dopamine." This little guy is responsible for most habitual behavior. In fact, the receptor site responsible for the uptake of dopamine has been nicknamed "The Pleasure Center." Our bodies produce dopamine when we are doing things we enjoy. These activities can rage from eating or sex, to playing a video game. Now, here's the kicker: Dopamine is extremely physically addictive; meaning people can get addicted to activities that are not inherently addictive.
So, how do we use this knowledge to benefit us? Well I know that for me personally coffee, certain snacks, and video games are all activities I partake in that produce dopamine. So this morning, I had my coffee as usual, and this got my dopamine engine humming. My initial desire was to keep up my "high" by jumping on the computer for some online gaming - but instead, I created a list of tasks that needed to get done. This list included: straightening the apartment, unloading the dishwasher, and feeding the pets amongst other mostly mundane tasks. I told myself that I could have my next "fix" after I was 100% done with my list. I was very surprised at how quick and effortless everything was, and before I knew it I was finished. I then proceeded to keep my word to myself and reward myself with some gaming.
So, that's the theory! The idea is that by using this method one can find a balance between that which is desired and that which must be done. By spacing out the activities that cause dopamine release the "dopamine high" is maintained through the mundane tasks. Who knows, maybe this will even trick a brain into believing that the mundane activities themselves are pleasing.