Human Automation -The benefits or detriments of habits part 4
Why Bingo Halls keep me honest.
(Read last post in series for context)
Long story short: my mother used to own a gift shop that sold bingo supplies and that shop used to be attached to the bingo hall for the first couple years. I would often help her if she needed someone to watch the counter and as a result, I found myself being in the bingo hall an awful lot. Now, I’m not sure if you are familiar with a bingo hall environment, but I always remember it as being a very toxic experience. The one giant room that over a hundred people were crowded in, was filled with smog on account of chronic cigarette puffing. Between the clouds of thick smoke, were the decrepit bodies of people who had been long retired and who gathered together for what most likely was their only form of entertainment for that week. You would imagine that someone who didn’t get out that much, would be excited to get out of the house, but the expressions on their faces would lead me to believe otherwise. All I ever saw was frowns or forced, creepy smiles. Even their overall attitudes were foul. Many people were disrespectful and had no shame about it. Of course, this was only my perceived version of the bingo hall and probably off from the reality of situation, but from what I could tell, it appeared that most of the people who went there, were miserable; not everybody, just most.
I’m not trying to pick on bingo halls or the people who go there to play, I’m just sharing my experiences there. Not everybody was old and decrepit. Even if they were, big deal! Everybody gets old eventually. What really got to me was how many people there, were fettered with handicaps and riddled with diseases, who would have been fine if they had just taken better care of themselves. I’m sorry, but people younger than seventy shouldn’t have as many problems as these people did; most that was created from neglect to themselves. Being in that environment really left an impression on me. I made a promise to myself that I would not just let myself become the “walking dead” as I had called them back then. I promised that I would make something of myself and that I would be grateful for what I had. There was already enough misery in the world for another person to be added in the mix, so I vowed to be the contrarian. I promised to be a healthy, happy, and courteous person in general, and every time I fall off that path, I’m reminded of that bingo hall and how it made me feel.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a bingo hall and I’m not sure how realistic the way I remember it is, but either way, I remember that it depressed me when I was younger. Honestly, it could have been just seeing all of the elderly being together in one location that made me think about life and the frailty of it all. The rest could have very much just been my imagination. In any case, the impression that it left on me is very real. Every time I think about eating garbage, I think of that bingo hall. Every time I consider giving up on trying something, I think of that bingo hall. Anytime I think about not exercising, I think about that musty old bingo hall. Whether real or imagined, a lot of my bad habits never come to fruition, simply due to the fact that I don’t want to end up like the images in my head from my past. I have created such a negative association with bad food and laziness that it disgusts me to lay back and do nothing. If you can create something just as powerful as what I had imagined in my head, for the things you want to avoid, you’ll find it a lot easier to stick with the plan. Otherwise, you’ll have to constantly come to grips with the fact that your life is headed in a direction that you aren’t going to be happy with.
Breaking an undesirable habit may sometimes feel like an impossible task, especially if you have tried several times in the past without success. Luckily, they can be easily broken by replacing one routine for another, or by eliminating the cues (if you are aware of what they are.) Most people try to break a bad habit by ignoring the urge, but "will power" is a limited resource which we will discuss in the next section. There were a lot of cues telling Eugene when it was time to wake up and when to make breakfast. There were cues that guided him back home while he was on his daily walk. None of these were in his conscious awareness, but they still were understood by his subconscious mind. As long as those cues remained consistent, the habit allowed him to get around the block without having any idea where his house was. When an element changed, he would sometimes get lost because it would break him out of his typical loop. If, for example, his path was blocked by a fallen branch on the sidewalk, or there were unusual distractions on the nearby street like a car pileup, or accident, he lost his ability to find his way home. Just like with Eugene, if you can find a way to interrupt the habit loop, or eliminate the cues, the habits will automatically disappear. Keep that in mind next time you eat and are thinking about going outside to smoke. If you can hesitate just long enough to redirect your attention elsewhere, you might just be able to break your bad habits and form a new one.