Why Your Brain Loves Habits (and You Should too!)

Congratulations on taking the first step towards achieving your goals – deciding not to stay where you are!

Let’s start out with a couple of definitions that will aid us on this journey:

  • A behavior is anything that a person does.  For example: talking, eating, sitting, running, sleeping, and even smiling, are all behaviors.
  • A habit, on the other hand, is defined as “A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.”

Habit %When we do something often enough, our brain actually changes to form new connections! This rewiring of the brain allows repetitive tasks (habits) to run on autopilot, saving precious brain power for more challenging and difficult tasks (Pretty cool huh?!).

In fact, 40-45% of the things we do each day are habits – meaning that just over half of our behaviors are conscious decisions, while the rest are more or less automatic.

Forming good habits can help to simplify our lives by giving our brains a break (and who doesn’t want life to be a little easier – am I right?). To gain a better understanding, let’s take a look at how Jill’s life was simplified by forming a new habit:

Jill’s friend talked her into signing up for a kickboxing class at the local gym thinking that it would be a fun way for them to lose some weight. Going to the gym is a new behavior for Jill, and at first she has a really hard time making herself go. She is tired after a long, hard, day at work. Each day she has to fight an inner battle as to whether or not she should call and cancel, or just drag herself to the gym. The fact that she can’t seem to remember to pack her gym bag and put it in her car each morning before work doesn’t help either.

 

Jill really does want to lose some weight though, and she doesn’t want to let her friend down, so she forces herself to go to the gym day in and day out – even though she doesn’t want to.

 

After a while, Jill finds a routine that works for her. She packs her gym bag the night before and sets it by the front door so that she doesn’t forget it. She gets in her car, and automatically heads for the gym after work. And the best part? She no longer has to make the mentally draining decision of whether or not she’ll go to the gym each day – she just does it!

So what happened with Jill?  You may have noticed that she struggled when first adopting her new behavior of going to kickboxing. However, after going for several weeks, she found a routine that worked for her, and going to the gym became a easier. The reason for this, is that with enough time and repetition – her new behavior became a habit!

Summary

The hardest part of making a behavior change is typically the beginning. Once routines are set and habits are formed, the behavior becomes easier to do.

Our ultimate goal then, is to help you adopt healthy behaviors and convert them into healthy habits that can last you a lifetime. When you do, your brain (and the rest of your body for that matter) will thank you!

Your TurnPlease comment below to share your experiences!

  • Is there anything that you do automatically without thinking (like driving to work instead of somewhere else?)
  • What health behaviors would you like to make into habits?

Wrap-up

Continue on to the next post to learn about a way of thinking that dramatically increases your chance of succeeding in your health goals!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s