The power of habit The power of habit: why we do what we do in life and businessCharles Duhigg; Random House 2012WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Sunday was church, Monday was Master Chorale, Tuesday was meetings, Wednesday was a sales meeting and choir and a wonderful program at church with a jazz pianist/nightclub singer, Thursday was elder training, and today I taught and visited the grocery store. There have also been workmen at the house every day, and I can’t eat lunch with guys removing and replacing the walls and windows in the dining area, can I? So I’ve been having lunch out with the kids and there’s the weekly breakfast with my stepfather, and phone meetings as well. Oh, and I am married and have family and coworkers.

This is of course all very nice, interesting, and lively.

However, I’ve gotten no knitting done at all, no housekeeping, and little reading beyond my habitual half hour. I haven’t exercised, because I like to do that alone. I haven’t thought much, because I do that best alone, too.

I feel as though I desperately need some quiet time, some time for the solitary pursuits I enjoy, time to relax.

But really, I could be resetting my habits.

I’m listening to The Power of Habit by Charles DuHigg as I drive hither and yon, and I have learned that habits are different from what we usually think they are. They are under the control of the basal ganglia, a small and primitive part of the brain. This part of our brain takes over when we follow a routine.

Yep, it takes over. This leaves the smarter parts of our brains free to do all the serious thinking, and makes our brains more efficient.

So think of a rat which has learned to run into a maze and find a piece of chocolate. At first, it thinks deeply, but once the actions become a routine, there is activity only in the basal ganglia.

Now the experimenter puts electric shocks into the floor or a mild poison into the chocolate. Seeing the chocolate in a bowl, the rat will reject it. Seeing an electric floor in another context, it will run away. Seeing the same maze where it has previously learned that routine, it will walk across the electric floor and eat the poisoned chocolate, because all sensible decision-making has been turned off in its brain.

This explains why I order pizza delivery on Friday nights.

But new routines can overcome the old routine, even though the old routines are always there in our brains. So a routine of spending time with people could eventually overcome my routine of choosing time alone as much as possible. I would no longer think about it. I would not yearn to be at home in my comfortable private cocoon. I would become a party girl.

I’m not sure just how much power the basal ganglia has, but I’ll let you know when I find out.