Breaking Bad Habits
December 07, 2017
It's coming up to that time of year again when many of us try to make resolutions to change our ways for the next year. The reason we make these resolutions most likely is due to the concern we are doing something bad already. Things like overeating, procrastinating, or not exercising enough. This article will talk about the why and how we can work to break these bad habits.
Most of us know the things that we do are bad. The question is why do we keep doing them? For example, many of us have unhealthy excess weight that we could lose if only we would ate right and exercised more. So why don’t we do it?
“Habits play an important role in our health,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Understanding the biology of how we develop routines that may be harmful to us, and how to break those routines and embrace new ones, could help us change our lifestyles and adopt healthier behaviors.”
Habits can occur through repetition. When they become automatic, our brain does not have to use conscious thought to perform the activity. This frees up our brains to focus on different things.
Habits can also develop when good or enjoyable events trigger the brain’s “reward” centers. And pleasure-based habits can be much harder to break. Enjoyable behaviors prompts your brain to release a chemical called . If you do something over and over, and dopamine is there when you’re doing it, that strengthens the habit even more. When you’re not doing those things, dopamine creates the craving to do it again.
The good news is, humans are not simply creatures of habit. We have many more brain regions to help us do what’s best for our health.
3 Things That Can Help Break Bad Habits
- Awareness: Focus on the bad habits then develop strategies to counteract them. Habits can be linked in our minds to certain places and activities. Develop a plan to avoid walking down the hall where there’s a candy machine, for example.
- Visualization: Picture yourself in a tempting situation and then mentally practice the good behavior you want to achieve. If you've been procrastinating about going to the gym, imagine yourself going to the gym, putting on your workout clothes and then running on the treadmill. The power of positive thinking can do wonders.
- Replacement: Replace unhealthy routines with new, healthy ones. Exercise has been shown to be a great replacement for certain bad addictions. It may not work for everyone, but engaging in certain behaviors that are ritualistic and in a way compulsive—such as running— helps some people stay away from bad habits like overeating. These alternative behaviors can counteract the urges to repeat a particular bad behavior. Replacing a first-learned habit with a new one doesn’t erase the original behavior. Rather, both remain in your brain. But you can take steps to strengthen the new one and suppress the original one and. perhaps, teach an old dog new tricks.
Breaking bad habits is not a one-size fits all, but it can be achieved. Enlisting the help of friends and family or group workout routines can certainly aid in getting you on the road to a healthier and more fit you.