Why Habits are so Powerful and Potentially Dangerous

Our brain relies on routines stored in our primitive brain to conserve mental energy, but it needs to decide which Routine to perform and when to perform it. The initial spike in brain activity is the rat determining which Routine to perform. Once the rat decides, it’s decision centers quiet, their basal ganglia take over, navigating the maze quicker than when it was slowed down by conscious thought. At the end of the exercise, when the rat sees the reward, the brain jolts itself awake. It makes sure that the pattern unfolded as anticipated. Habits are a four-step process. First, there is a Cue that stimulates a Craving and triggers a Routine. Then there is a conditioned Routine, stored in our basal ganglia, that we execute to satisfy our Craving. Finally, there is a Reward that reinforces the habit by causing our brain to judge the routine worth remembering and repeating. This explains the pattern of brain activity the researchers observed, and it helps explain why habits are so valuable and potentially dangerous. Ann Graybiel, one of the scientists who oversaw many of the basal ganglia experiments, said, “Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structures of our brain, and that’s a huge advantage for us because it would be awful if we had to relearn how to drive after every vacation. The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.[i] “If a learned pattern remains in the brain after the behavior is extinguished, maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to change a habit. It is as though somehow, the brain retains a memory of the habit context, and this pattern can be triggered if the right habit cues come back,” Graybiel said. “This situation is familiar to anyone who is trying to lose weight or to control a well-engrained habit. Just the sight of a piece of chocolate cake can reset all those good intentions.”[ii] Continue reading Why Habits are so Powerful and Potentially Dangerous

ONE BRAIN – BUT TWO MINDS

For us to be able to develop good habits, we must first understand the psychology of behavior change. Psychologists say we have one brain but two minds. You will learn about both – their strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies so you will be able to win every battle. You will learn how to overcome intense cravings and develop healthy eating habits. We are all capable of … Continue reading ONE BRAIN – BUT TWO MINDS

CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT WITH THE RIGHT STRATEGIES AND A LITTLE MOTIVATION, WE ARE ALL CAPABLE OF GREAT CHANGE

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What you are going to learn:
  1. Why Habits are so Powerful and Potentially Dangerous
  2. The Three Elements of a Habit
  3. How a Better Understanding of Habits can Help Us Replace Bad Habits with Good Ones
  4. A Simple Approach to Overcoming our Natural Resistance to Change
  5. Why We Often Blame our Lack of Willpower when it is usually our Lack of Commitment that is to Blame    

People often say that change is difficult, and they are correct. Change is difficult, but we are all capable of change. Our lives are continually changing, learning to drive, marriage, having children, new job responsibilities, and new technological tools. Initiation is the most challenging phase of any change because when we are learning to perform new tasks, it is mentally exhausting. Learning to perform a new activity requires our cerebral cortex (“Conscious Brain”) to do the heavy lifting.

As the new task becomes routine, the more resilient basal ganglia, (“subconscious brain’), takes over. The action becomes easier and easier to perform. Our conscious brain essentially goes on autopilot, and the actions flow almost effortlessly. You undoubtedly experienced this when you were learning to drive. In the beginning, it required all of your mental focus, but now you can drive, adjust the cabin temperature, tune the radio, carry on a conversation, and heaven forbid, use your smartphone while driving.

Change is possible, but it starts with awareness. The hardest part of creating a change in behavior is just not repeating the behaviors of the past. Approximately 40 to 45% of the decisions we make are out of habit.[i] Unfortunately, these aren’t conscious decisions. These are decisions our conscious brain has delegated to the subconscious brain. Our subconscious mind controls the performance of repetitive daily activities which frees our conscious mind from making countless decisions each day, which would lead to decision fatigue and mental exhaustion. For this reason, we aren’t mindful of actions we have repeated enough times to make them habits.
Continue reading “CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT WITH THE RIGHT STRATEGIES AND A LITTLE MOTIVATION, WE ARE ALL CAPABLE OF GREAT CHANGE”