Trillfit & the Power of Habits

Habits: how do we shed the bad ones and nurture the good?

Cravings — good and bad — quickly become ingrained into habits. I’ve been giving my habits — good and bad – a lot of thought.

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes that obsessive cravings or addictions create a feedback loop that overrides most negative potential consequences, including loss of reputation, job, family, and life. Researchers have found that in order to break a bad habit or enforce positive behavior, you need to establish a cue that helps you create a routine that leads to a reward.

Think of it as a perpetual neural feedback loop: cue, routine, reward, repeat.

After reading about this*, I took inventory of my own habit loops. I decided to shake things up a bit…

I read about a new gym called Trillfit, a hip-hop dance and sculpt studio that had just opened in Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood.

This past winter Trillfit helped pull me out of a serious sadness spiral, a.k.a. depression.

After reading the article in the Boston Globe, I hopped on my bike and rode over to check the place out. I got such a good vibe from speaking with Head Instructor Melisa Valdez that I signed up for a membership without even taking a class (I had a feeling it would be awesome, and I was right!)

My depression had screwed up my sleep cycle, so I began to get up early to get to Trillfit’s 7:00 a.m. hip-hop class.

I loved it: hip-hop dance moves gave my spinal column all the love of a billion yogic cat-cows, but with kick-ass beats. Plus, I met a new group of inspiring women and expanded my circle…


I created a new habit loop: a craving for Trillfit.

I now set my exercise gear outside my bedroom door every night before I go to bed (my cue), so when I wake up at six o’clock, I just stumble out of bed and get dressed before I think too much about where I’m headed, which is on my bike and off to Trillfit (my routine and my reward).

To control my depression and anxiety, I now refrain from my once-habitual small but nightly alcohol intake (bad habit loop) and instead exercise five to six times a week (good habit loop). I also meditate daily and see my shrink weekly. I stay the fuck away from toxic people and situations. All of it helps.

And if I miss my early morning hip-hop class, I don’t beat myself up about it. I go for a bike ride or hit the gym instead, because I crave — yes, physically and spiritually crave — how peaceful I feel after a bout of intense cardio.

The exercise IS my reward: positive neural feedback loop closed. Mission accomplished!


*In case you’re interested, here are three books I’m reading about the neurology of habits, all from my local library:

  • The Craving Mind: from Cigarettes to Smart Phones to Love – Why We Get Hooked & How We Can Break Bad Habits, by Judson Brewer
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck, PhD