“What were once vices are now habits.”
– The Doobie Brothers
Habits are hard to break, but understanding how they are created in our brain is the first step in breaking them.
No one likes having bad habits – smoking, over-eating, drinking too much – they are often expensive and usually bad for our health.
*I know there is a lot more to smoking than just the habitual behaviors. Cigarettes are filled with chemicals that serve no other purpose than to addict the smoker. And I’m well aware of the fact that alcoholism is not a habitual behavior. But I’m talking about habits here, not addiction.
In terms of habits, think of it like walking in a virgin rainforest. The first time something is done, it’s like cutting through the rainforest with a machete. The more you perform this act, the more you are clearing the path. And after awhile, the neural pathway you’ve forged becomes easier to navigate, more like an open road. The more often it is traveled, the better the pathway. And this is great news when you are learning a new language or a new skill, the more often it is practiced, the better it gets.
What’s not so great is when this big neural pathway is associated with a habit you want to break, and the repetition of this bad habit keeps making it more entrenched. If each time you turn the key to start the car, you also light up a cigarette, the brain associates these actions together, and they become part of the same neural pathway. The bad news is that the longer you have done this, the more entrenched is this habit.
But the good news is that our brains are not static. Research about neuroplasticity is showing us that our brains can definitely change. We can rewire our brains and get rid of bad habits forever. We can all learn new behaviors and attitudes and transform our lives.
I’m not saying it’s easy to get rid of bad habits. But I am saying that it is possible. There are powerful ways that we can retrain our brain, and with practice rid ourselves of entrenched habits that we want to change.
Marilyn Gordon wrote a good article about training your brain to get rid of bad habits. Each of the 10 steps deserves to be explored on it’s own, so I plan to dwell on each point individually in my next few posts.
She outlines the 10 steps as:
1. Identify the habit you’d like to transform and set the intention.
2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.
3. Shift your focus.
4. Use your imagination.
5. Interrupt your thoughts and patterns when they arise.
6. Use aversion therapy.
7. Create a specific plan and choose what to do instead.
8. Transform the obstacles.
9. Connect with your Higher Source for inspiration and support.
10. Transform and make the shift.
I’ll close with a great talk, held at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, by Rick Hanson about Neuroplasticity.
I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.