Whether you “do” New Year’s resolutions or not, it’s not uncommon at this time of year to think about our habits – the ones that are serving us and the ones that aren’t, and how we’d like to change.
If you want to know what your brain really needs to make lasting change, read on.
To the possibilities ahead,
These are the three things you need to create a good habit
We have been told for decades that willpower is what we need more of. If we just had more of that elusive thing, we’d have more control over unhealthy behaviors. More power to start and keep good habits. More of the stuff we want, less of what we don’t.
We now know, with the help of brain science, that things have to change at a much more fundamental level, deep in the brain’s intricate web of neurons, to create lasting behavioral transformation.
A common phrase heard in neural-scientific circles Neurons that fire together, wire together. What this means is, basically: when you do something over and over and over again, the brain learns a new pattern.
What we have often as “strong willpower” in others — is actually just us observing the millionth time that person is participating in a well-established habit.
The brain has a vested interest in forming habitual behaviors. Why? Because it takes much less work. Habits are super efficient from a brainpower standpoint.
Think of all the things you do every day that you don’t even think about — brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, much of your daily routine. Your brain has all of those often-repeated actions stored in such a way that you don’t have to devote precious brain real estate to concentrating on every single thing you do all the time.
This is exactly why the lower brain actually resists change. New behaviors take more energy, even when those new behaviors are healthy. So the reason we often struggle so much to break bad habits and start good ones is not the lack of willpower, but the lack of neural connections telling our brains to lock into a new repetitive patterns.
So what can help our brains let go of old habits and latch on to behaviors that help us live stronger, brighter, more vital lives?
According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, the formation of habits starts in a part of the brain called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia part of the Limbic System — the area of the brain that regulates emotion and memory. It influences emotions and the visceral responses to those emotions, motivation, mood, pattern recognition, and sensations of pain and pleasure.
In the three phases of what neuroscientists call the “habit loop,” the basal ganglia basically takes a behavior and makes it a habit. Here’s how it works:
- First, there’s the cue, the thing that “triggers” a certain behavior.
- comes the routine, or the behavior itself (this is what we observe as a habitual action).
- Once the action is taken, the brain releases feel-good or reward neurotransmitters, like dopamine or serotonin. These signal the brain to store both the trigger and the action for next so that we can be prompted to do it again. (A reward is only needed to create a habit, not to maintain one — so once the habit is established, the reward can diminish, and we’ll still feel prompted to do the same thing.)
So we need to pay attention to the habit loop: What’s the cue? What’s the behavior? And what’s the reward? What is it that our bodies, minds, and spirits are really craving that the habit is serving on the surface but not deeply fulfilling?
One simple example: if you eat potato chips every time you sit down to watch TV at night after dinner, chances are it’s not hunger that’s prompting the habit. Is it the advertising? Are you thirsty? Bored? Or maybe just tired? It could be that your body is actually telling you to stretch, read, and go to bed instead of watching TV — and that that behavior could produce the chemical “reward” that would contribute to cementing a new habit.
The really cool thing is this: the basal ganglia directly connects the lower and higher brain functions. It is the communicator between the two. It basically translates the decisions made by your higher brain, creates new neural pathways, and turns those new choices into automatic routines.
Are you ready to start creating the habits that will support your best self? I’d love to talk and show you how Higher Brain Living® can help. Contact me today by clicking here!
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Dip your mind in the waters of connecting to your power source with Tally Hayden, Certified Intuitive Alignment Coach and Mastery Higher Brain Living® Facilitator. I believe instilled in every one of us is a soul assignment that rises up from our heart essence. Most of us are disconnected from keeping up with the fast pace of society. Can you feel that disconnect within? This is your journey, and it is time to discover your destiny and your love of you. The road map is already in your heart. Your power is there. You just need someone to help tap into this knowing. This is my expertise—to create a pathway for you to Rise Up to falling in love with yourself and sing the song that is in your soul.
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