A comfort habit is anything you do to feel good when you were feeling bad. A cookie, a drink, a pill, a cigarette, a credit card, an electronic device, or a romantic interlude are familiar comfort habits. They turn on so automatically that you may not even notice the bad feeling that got the ball rolling. And you may not even feel good in the end because these behaviors have consequences. Yet you repeat your comfort habit over and over because your brain expects it to feel good.
An expectation is a real physical pathway in your brain.
It’s built from past experience, which is why we all have our own unique expectations. Our brain is designed to learn from what feels good. That’s how our ancestors found their way back to a delicious fruit tree, and it’s how your brain learned to expect relief from distress in a particular way. Once your brain builds the pathway, you keep expecting to feel good, even if you end up with harm.