Maybe at the beginning of the year you promised yourself to exercise more and eat less sugar, drink more water, and have more money in your bank account. Do you know what the chances are that this promise will be kept over time? Between 10 and 40%.
There is something interesting in all this, and that is that making a formal statement, like resolutions, means that you are 10 times more likely to change than those who do not. You should know that if during the first month you have not reached your goals, it does not mean that you have failed, because it can take up to almost a year to form a new habit and break an old one .
Even if you’ve said to yourself, “I’ll start tomorrow” every morning since New Year’s Day, it’s not too late to put your resolutions in motion. The brain reorganizes itself with your behavior, and every time you change a behavior in the long term, there are also long-term changes in the brain .
The relationship of the brain and habits
Part of why we are successful in breaking a bad habit or starting a new positive change can come down to whether or not your brain is fit . The ability to maintain resolution is a function of brain health. You’re more likely to stay on task, he notes, if your brain has healthy executive function – the brain’s control mechanism used in planning, reasoning, and decision – making .
The flip side of that is that less healthy brains can have an even harder time. Those who fall into this category include people with depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia , severe substance use disorder (addictions), and OCD. The reason is that they have less gray matter in the areas of the brain that control executive function .
The good news is that you can always improve your ability to focus and strengthen your self-control . The brain is designed to reshape itself based on its use, that is brain plasticity.
Understand your neurons
Neural activation patterns in a part of the brain called the striatum, located in the basal ganglia of the forebrain, which is known to control voluntary movement, change as animals learn a new habit. At first, neurons fire continuously during a task. But as you get better, the firing of neurons clumps together at the beginning and end. And once these patterns are formed, they are difficult to break.
In the beginning, you can start a habit by reducing friction (taking off your gym clothes the night before) or coupling what you want to do with something you already do (meditating while brushing your teeth). Once you have this under your belt, the goal is to let your brain take over .
Think of it this way. Has the power ever gone out in your house and yet every time you walk into a room, have you tried turning on the light switch? Those are your basal ganglia working. It is basically your autopilot and sends messages to the rest of your body to do things that you are not consciously thinking about. In essence, raisins being directed to a target ( “I want to lose weight, so I go to the gym”) directed to a habit ( “When I get up, I put on clothes and going to the gym”). This is where the magic happens to develop routines that stick .
Starts a chemical reaction
There are chemical machinery in the brain that controls how bright and alert you feel, and this also helps power new habits . When you experience something unexpected, you release a primary chemical called norepinephrine. They amplify activity in the brain for a period of time. If you commit to it every day, reliably after a period of time, you are more engrossed in the task.
Dopamine has a similar effect. When we have hope and appreciation, dopamine floods the body. This gives us a lot of excitement and activates the learning centers in the brain , which makes us more engaged and motivated.