How the brain worksThe brain works in 2 modes: autopilot and drive. I’m sure you have had the experience of driving to work and not remembering the drive. Your brain was working on autopilot. Your brain can do this because you’ve driven to work again and again and again and the pattern is ingrained in your neural networks. Think of it like you have a bunch of clay in front of you and you push your hand into it. The imprint you leave in the clay is the same as a habit. Now once you form a habit the brain likes the slide right into it. Anything that causes it to deviate from the habit requires effort and brain does not like that. Habits are stored in the basal ganglia of the brain. When force is required to deviate from a habit the prefrontal cortex of the brain is used. A very simple way to force the brain into using the prefrontal cortex is to count backwards from 5 and take a physical action.
How breaking a bad habit worksHere is an example of how this works. Therapist’s have been very successful in getting people to stop biting their nails. People bite their nails for a variety of reasons. Basically, they have a thought which could be stress, worry, anxiousness, etc. caused by an external event. The habit which they have is biting their nails which sends feedback to the brain of relief(same thing with smoking, eating, drinking, etc). In order to break this habit they had to break the feedback loop. What the therapist did is whenever the person thought about biting their nails they had the count backwards from 5 and tap their knuckles on the table. The combination of forcing their brain to use the prefrontal cortex and the physical action is what broke the habit pattern. On average it took 3 days for this habit to be broken. This method can be applied to any habit.
You are never ever going to feel like changing i.e. losing weightWhy bother to learn how to change your habits? Here is a shocking statement: you are never ever going to feel like it. Ever. There needs to be some force somewhere. Our actions are driven by feelings. You feel before you think. Here is an example: alarm goes off, how do I feel, I think I will stay in bed, hit snooze. If you know you have to do something but stop to think about it the brain has the chance to insert its self talk which will prevent you from accomplishing your task. Fear, anxiety, procrastination, I’ll do it later, it’s too hard, it’s too easy, and the phrases your brain will tell you are endless. If you had an employee talk to you the way your brain talks to you you would fire them. By counting backwards and taking a physical action you break that pattern. The Nike motto of ” Just Do It” is a great phrase to live by. How can you use this little pattern interrupt in life ? Three ways
- Change you behavior
- Be the real you
- Remove negative thoughts