Habits: our brain’s fault

vegetable brain

We all have behaviors that we wish we could stop. Some people smoke and wish they never started. Some people want to start exercising yet they go straight to the couch the minute they walk in the door. Others want to eat healthy, yet just can’t drive by that fast food joint without going to that drive up window. You get the picture! What is going on here? Why is it so hard to change?

In all of these situations our brains have taken over to theoretically make life easier for us. In all of these situations a habit has been formed. Our brains have learned that when it gets a certain “trigger”, a “routine” follows that results in a “reward”. The first time we perform the behavior (walk in the door, take off our shoes, walk to the couch) our brains had to think through each step. But eventually, the step of walking through the door gets directly connected in our brains to the reward of sitting on the couch! We can already feel the reward! And that my friend, is a craving.  Our brain is now automatically wired.

How do we undo this unhealthy behavior? We need to start to rewire our brains! You can start with changing your routine. Instead of taking off your shoes, put on sneakers. Go outside instead of to the couch. Or take a different route home (bypassing your trigger). In time, the urges decrease (although the brain connections always remain, they are weakened, and your new healthier connections become strong).

So ask yourself: is there anything YOU do automatically, without thinking, that you wish you didn’t? What have you got to lose? Even just identifying your habits can be the first step to help you move into a healthier lifestyle.

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