This question has been raised by Natalie and I found it to be a very interesting topic to think about. I think about homeostasis just as I think about comfort zone (even though it’s a biological thing like maintaining the temperature, the level of each hormone released, the blood pressure and so on). Here is a definition of it:
“Homeostasis is the state of steady internal conditions maintained by living organisms.” – Wikipedia
Basically, these means balance and as you know, everything that tilts too much in one direction tends to get leveled somehow. When we push ourselves forward, we’re actually tilting in one direction and if we tilt too much, we’ll break. This is why changing something about our lives it’s so God damn hard. Once we’re used to something, it’s part of our balance. With this in mind, what can we do to evolve? How can we get better at something when both our body and our mind want to keep us in the same state?
You know how hard it is to move from one house to another? It’s hard because of two reasons. One of them is because we’re getting out of what we are already used to (you can call this the homeostatic balance – body issue or comfort zone – psychic issue) and we get in a new place which is not part of that balance just yet, but in time we get used to that and sometimes we cannot even remember how it was before. This answers the question if we can beat homeostasis. Yes, we can and we usually do it because we have no choice. What about the times we want to make a change even though we don’t have to?
Well, creating a new habit is the perfect example of beating homeostasis. Addictions are also good examples of how homeostasis is beaten. If we’re too sensible and big changes create too much anxiety for us to bear, we can make small changes daily. It will be harder at first, but in time it will became part of our balance. With big changes, we need to have the energy to keep the same level daily; otherwise we’ll be drawn back to that balance.
My conclusion is that we can beat homeostasis with small daily changes until it will feel natural. It is said that creating a new habit can take up to 254 days (the tougher the habit, the longer it takes to become part of our balance) so it takes time… lots of time, but it can be done.
What are your insights about this? Can homeostasis be beaten?
31 thoughts on “Can we beat homeostasis?”
Thank you for writing this, I really appreciate it 🙂
Reading it made me realise there are plenty of times when I’ve beaten homeostasis in the past – even things like quitting smoking count. 254 days to change a habit is a little depressing, but at least it makes it doable. I guess I need more patience to keep going with this daily habits.
My pleasure! 254 days is the longest period. It usually takes somewhere around 30 days if we do it daily. The momentum will pick that up. 🙂
Much better. I’ll aim for 30 days and cross my fingers for momentum!
Great! And push yourself to do it daily. I know it’s hard, but you need to do it if you really want that.
Yes, it certainly can be beaten. Many a times it is our own mind that stops us from imbibing a new habit that might bring about a major change in our lives. Personally I find myself resisting change more often, the older I get. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s likeness to ennui. Maybe it’s being lazy.
I think it’s because the more we stay in a certain state, the more we get used to it and it becomes a stronger part of our homeostasis. So it makes sense that the older we get, the harder it is to make changes in our lives.
I’ve experienced this! About a year ago, I decided to pick up my ‘rusty’ English. I used to dislike listening and speaking, but now I have made it a habit to listen and practice speaking English every day!
It really takes time. It’s difficult to get into a New habit. But with small changes every day, We can make it step by step. It’s a long progress. If we
give up halfway from time to time, it doesn’t matter. Just pick it up and move on.
Thank you! Yes, it’s difficult, but through doing the hard work we gain the required skills.
I need to quit smoking. Ugh seems like an uphill battle.
I love that you said “I need to” and not “I have to” or “I should”. This states it’s something you can have control over and that you realize how important it is to you. Have you started the process?
I have started to cut back by not smoking quite as much each day. I do not want to go cold turkey because I know the withdrawal will be murder. So, I am doing slowly so I do not alarm my body and brain.
Yes, exactly! That’s the strategy 🙂
Well, I guess I may not have an issue as I avoid habits, routines and states… 🙂 here on the path it is sometimes referred to as “living life”… 🙂
“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” Anais Nin
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming; “Wow! What a ride!” Hunter S. Thompson
Yep, you’re safe from this 😀
As an OTIP (Over Thinker In Progress) I relate to your blogs so much! I believe we can beat homeostasis in the many ways already stated. But… I would like to add it helps to have an internal guide or ritual that is the same regardless of our day. Example: I do a prayer and meditation each morning. I go to a few meetings each week and my house of worship each Sunday. It helps greatly for me to know that while I’m giving up wine I have the routine of my soul filling every week no matter what. It makes the unknown of my career easier and the days on/days off of subbing easier. I can count on what IS working while I transition from unknown to known. (And finally, having a God of my understanding is huge, because it’s not just ME having to do something new. My spirit is full of strength outside of me to keep going.)
Of course, it’s very important for us to make the most proper environment (internal and external) so we can make it. It’s a whole process 🙂
Yes, it can be beaten. And I agree with you it is so hard. But I’ve noticed over time, that boredom does eventually seep through. I’m speaking from experience; when I’ve done something for so long, I get bored, craving for something new to do; the longer I try to ignore it, the more what I currently do becomes less and less fun/comfortable. I begin to resent it. Variety is the spice of life, just like any new taste on a palate, you have to get used to it.
And it’s important what we start doing when we get bored. It can be something helpful or hurtful.
No. Homeostasis is not something that can be beaten. For no matter how hard one tries, you ultimately have no control over your own body cells, nor another human being. I am constantly changing myself, my view of myself, my re/presentation of myself but alas my body reminds me I have to stop doing that thing because it screws over my bgl and I rapidly degenerate in my inner computation and thus outer communication. You may push through your mental barriers, blockages and overcome your fears, but your physical body ultimately betrays you because it hates change.
It hates change, but I think it can be done. How else can we explain the fact that our muscles grow if we work out? What about the body getting used to certain substances and a bigger amount it is needed so the same effects can occur? Of course, it’s not necessarily “beaten”, but more like modified and extended.
This is a very interesting post. Sparks old questions I used to ponder. Am I in control of my body? Our bodies do so much without our “command.”
And it does based on certain patterns. If we understand those patterns, we can get in control.
I guess, yeah. Homeostasis can’t be beaten, per se, but it can get expanded. If you look at the fitness level of an athlete to that of a desk jockey, you can find the athlete being more energetic, have a high level of endurance, and a more efficient breathing cycle.
Sure you can adapt and modify and grow. But you can’t continuously grow forever. There is a point where you plateau. And what goes up eventually goes down. Our bodies are but dust. It’s only the openness to the possibility of change where that can be achieved…. you can train your muscles but they must repair. And if not maintained then they will atrophy.
Homeostasis can only be overcome so long as you are actively trying to overcome it, never be comfortable or complacent.
In short, what goes up, must come down.
Yes. But that tiny sentence, without context, infers a mere physics point of view. It doesn’t resonate with the self persona or perception, or the emotion, or the motivation. It comes across very 2 dimensional. Up vs down. Moving vs still.
In this case, the context is our discussion.
Huzzah! Had we not had this discussion, it would be a nought point. A meaningless cliche 😉