The Habitual Brain
How routine, action and thought are the structure of life – for better or worse, a blessing or a curse…
We humans are creatures of habit, and more often than not, our habits are like the 6th sense that overrules the other 5. Our brains naturally LOVE what’s familiar because it feels comfortable and by evolution keeps us safe. On a physiological level, repeated actions literally create neural pathways in the brain, which explains why it can be so incredibly hard to break a habit (enter New year’s resolutions…) – because you have to undo the wiring! Luckily, in spite of their bad rep, habits can be wonderfully helpful and supportive in our busy life! How? Because good habits are consciously formed; bad habits we fall into…
We often absentmindly stick to a particular routine without considering the consequence or effectiveness of it: a glass of wine to “unwind” after work; a packet of crisps or chocolate with a movie, and screening Facebook in bed for the 100th time that day. Habits can also be more physical and characteristically individual: biting our nails, picking our nose, playing with hair or licking a spoon when we cook. But, we COULD form a habit to dish up less; to stick to one glass of wine, not to keep electronic devices by our bed, to floss regularly, to reply to messages as soon as we receive them, to step away from the computer and sit in the sun for a few minutes, to do face-yoga while we’re sitting on the toilet… All these small changes can amount to enormous improvement in health, time and stress management.
Bruce Lipton, a professor in epigenetics (gene expression by environment) and author of the best-selling award-winning book “The Biology of Belief” explains: “There are two minds. There is the conscious mind (creative) , and the subconscious mind (habitual) with a program which it plays over and over and over again. The most important thing about a habit mind is that it is resistant to change. The first seven years of your life the mind is operating in a low vibrational beta frequency, like hypnosis. So that is one way of changing the program. The other way is habituation, where you make a practice out of something, every day repeat it over and over again, to create new programming.”
Building new habits takes determination and time! Beyonce famously went on a 22-day vegan challenge and the brand 22 Days Nutrition took off like a rocket? Why did it work? Well, one: always get Beyonce to advertise your product; and two: it’s been proven that it takes 21 days to change/form a habit. And you can take it even a step further: when a habit begins to cost money, it’s called a hobby! 🙂
So here are 7 MYHRU tried-and-tested steps on making a positive habit stick:
- Identify the habit you want to form.
For example: Daily exercise.
- Make a conscious decision about this habit:
I’m going to exercise e v e r y single day.
- Identify potential obstacles and adjust the habit:
There might be distraction during the day and I might lose motivation or become tired. My solution will be to exercise first thing in the morning.
- Be flexible about your new habit:
I will not put time constraint on exercise if I’ve got a particularly busy morning. Even 20 minutes is better than nothing.
If I start getting bored with this routine, instead of giving up I’m simply going to try something different.
- Devise a plan:
The best place to exercise is… because I won’t be disturbed and I won’t wake anyone up.
- Employ vivid visualisation and set specific personal goals:
When I stick to exercising, I’m going to be healthy. – too generic.
When I stick to exercising, I’m going to live longer for my family, be full or energy, have fantastic complexion, fit in my favourite jeans, feel good about myself and start each day on a high which my work colleagues will notice!
- Establish healthy ways to reward yourself:
As soon as I’m done, I’m going to make myself my favourite banana, date and almond smoothie! (immediate reward)
Once I reach my goal weight, I’m going shopping for a new bikini! (the big carrot)
So habituate your way to success and happiness, as we strive to do the same at MYHRU, with agreement by Aristotle who said: We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”