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RomeoStevens comments on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity - Less Wrong

122 Post author: RomeoStevens 28 February 2014 06:28AM

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Comment author: RomeoStevens 27 February 2014 05:03:52PM *  18 points [-]

Over the last year I have become dramatically better at instilling habits in myself. I posit two main reasons for this. The first is understanding the habit formation process, as summarized by Kaj Sotala here. The second is learning to create plans that are more robust against random failure. I used to model myself as a coherent agent with some set amount of willpower to expend on the various things I found unpleasant. More recently, I model myself as a bunch of sub-agents with different goals. The subagent that tends to make plans for what I’m going to do this week is NOT the same sub-agent that will actually have to do these things. So now I make plans that can take into account a low motivation sub-agent being in charge. Sometimes this is as simple as a part of your plan that says “IF you don’t want to go to the gym THEN you will go to the gym anyway.” Yes, seriously. Sometimes it is making the activation costs of a particular action easier by removing friction from your process. Sometimes it is modeling my future self as an idiot who can’t stop eating cookies and doing things like preemptively throwing cookies away.

How would I actually go about forming a new habit? Let’s use flossing as an example. Trying to remember to floss after I brushed didn’t work. At all. So I had to start strategizing. My sub-agents didn’t have sufficient motivation to care. So I started reading up on the benefits of flossing and looking at images of flossed vs unflossed surfaces in a mouth. This created enough of an emotional connection that I started feeling like I really needed to floss. But I still forgot. Remembering to floss after I brushed was still not working, so I changed it. I put the floss in my room. That way it was available over a much longer period of time in the evening. IF I forgot to floss THEN I would floss in the morning. I thought about positive things while flossing, longevity and building effective habits and having clean teeth. After a few weeks, flossing was finally a habit. I didn’t have to think about it anymore and was able to start working on a new habit.

Comment author: AndekN 01 March 2014 09:59:00PM *  4 points [-]

Let’s use flossing as an example. Trying to remember to floss after I brushed didn’t work. At all. 

I had the same experience for years. Every six months or so I would read an article like this one reminding how important it is to floss, visit a dentist or something similar. Then I promised to myself that from now on, I'd floss daily. And then I'd forget to actually do it.

After reading The Power of Habit (the book Kaj Sotala summarised in his article linked above) I realised that just trying to remember would never work. Instead, I needed to create a cue. I did this by placing the floss in front of my facial cleanser. Then, every evening when I reached for the cleanser (this already was a habit for me), my hand would hit the floss. That reminded me to floss and only after flossing I would clean my face. And it worked. I don't have to think about flossing anymore: after a month it had become a habit and now, after six months or so it's starting to feel weird that there was a time I didn't floss every day.

Comment author: LucasSloan 28 February 2014 12:37:30AM 1 point [-]

The first is understanding the habit formation process, as summarized by Kaj Sotala here.

Link?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 February 2014 03:29:24AM 0 points [-]

fixed.

Comment author: pinyaka 26 January 2015 10:39:13PM 0 points [-]

The subagent that tends to make plans for what I’m going to do this week is NOT the same sub-agent that will actually have to do these things. So now I make plans that can take into account a low motivation sub-agent being in charge.

Can you talk more about this? How do you think about sub agents? How do you make plans for them? I mean, do you write plans down, visualize doing something in a particular setting, etc.? What are your planning sessions like?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 27 January 2015 12:21:54AM 1 point [-]

I used IFS frameworks at the beginning. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_Family_Systems_Model

Now that I am used to doing it regularly and have built up some internal trust, I can often just ask around internally about how different parts feel about an action and get coherent answers.

Comment author: pinyaka 27 January 2015 10:52:05PM 0 points [-]

Thanks, that looks interesting. How did you learn specific IFS techiniques? Did you attend a workshop, work with a therapist, read books, extensively google stuff, etc.?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2015 09:13:18AM *  0 points [-]

Sessions with friends, reading stuff online mostly. I refer to it as psychotherapy lite because it is pretty hard to do wrong. The goal is to explore and see if anything surprising pops up. I might be missing some useful stuff from not having read any of the books yet. But part of the reason I haven't is because even with the basics I found tons of low hanging fruit.