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From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love—How We Get Hooked & How We Can Break Bad Habits
Judson Brewer • Yale

We’re forever reaching for something that will bring us pleasure: coffee, a Facebook post, a kiss, or something more sinful. We rev up our craving engine in the morning and give it few breaks through the day. What’s up with that? Why so needy? As director of research at the Center for Mindfulness and developer of smoking cessation and mindful eating apps, doctor Judson Brewer has a few things to say about that. Both a lab researcher and a psychiatrist, he has tried to figure out how we get ourselves into habits that adversely affect our health and how we can release ourselves from their grip. A little bit of understanding goes a long way, in Brewer’s view, so it helps us to know that we’re built to crave. Drawn toward what nourishes us, we’re rewarded with a good feeling, and the brain lays down a memory. That mechanism—trigger-behavior-reward—served our ancestors well when it came to learning where to find food and avoid toxins. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the watering hole:…