Understanding Triggers

Watch my short video on Triggers

Yesterday I broke down the three components of the habit loop, triggers, actions, and rewards, which are essential to understand if you want to make habits that stick.

Today we’ll be talking a little more about triggers, the first part of the habit process.

The trigger is what starts the process loop.

For bad habits, if you can remove the “trigger” in your life, you can quickly quit bad habits.

I want to share a story of a Pavlok user who asked for help with severe depression

She told me that, since she was a teenager, she suffered from rumination and depression.

I told her that Pavlok isn’t a medical device — but I believe some forms of depression are simply habit loops in the brain, and possibly we can help with that.

My recommendation: For the next five days, every time she caught herself in a negative thought loop, I asked her to zap herself, smile, and text me where she was.

On day 1, she caught herself at work. On day 2, she caught herself on the way to work.

On day 3, she was reaching for the front door. On day 4, she was reaching for the front door. On day 5, she was reaching for the front door.

What the heck was going on with her front door? 

There was a flower vase sitting by her front door. When she was 16, she and her twin sister had a birthday party. A bunch of people came — but she got no gifts — everyone had given gifts to her sister alone.

Her sister said “here, take this flower vase.” The vase was triggering thoughts of ‘no one loves me’ and ‘no one cares.’

So I told her to throw away the flower vase. And the ruminations stopped.


This story is about the power of triggers. Habit loops start from a trigger. If you can identify the trigger and remove the trigger, in a lot of cases you can stop the habit in its tracks.

Our Pavlok wearable helps you identify problematic triggers. The zap builds awareness earlier in the process.

If you’re trying to change any habit, start with looking for your triggers!

Do you have any obvious triggers causing you to perform bad habits? Comment and let me know.

P.S Tomorrow I’ll be talking about actions and where they fit into the habit loop.

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