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
Want to start eating better and losing weight? You don’t need a new diet. You do not even need to start exercising. You just need to keep a food log. People that keep a food journal lose twice as much weight as those that do not. Why is it so effective? Simple. Keeping a food journal forces us to confront our choices. Monitoring improves our performance through increased awareness. Continue reading You Don’t Need a NEW DIET
Our primitive brain is more resilient than our prefrontal cortex, but it is a dumb repeater. If we do not increase our awareness of bad habits, our dumb repeater will continue doing what he has always done. We must confront our choices. Continue reading Confronting Our Choices & Associations
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”
At the most basic level, bad habits form when we let our guard down and sleepwalk through our decisions. Bad habits always produce an immediate pleasure. Our primitive brain is short-sighted. It only makes linkages of pleasure or pain to the immediate results an action produces. Continue reading “Bad Habits – How to Interrupt Them”
Bad habits form when we neglect to link them to their long-term consequences. One of our greatest gifts as human beings is our ability to link our decisions today with the long-term results they will produce. This mindfulness leads to better decisions.
Awareness is the beginning of life change. Bad habits form at the subconscious level. Continue reading Neglect leads to bad habits.