Let’s face it; temptation is all around us during this crazy holiday season. It’s almost too easy to over-indulge in multiple slices of pumpkin pie, skip workouts you know you should be doing and put your health on the back-burner with the idea that you can make yet another New Years resolution to get into the groove come January 1st (10 pounds heavier!)
Your brain just might be doing everything in its power to sabotage your health efforts with all the booze that’s flowing, cookies that are calling, and holiday parties happening. But don’t give up hope just yet and stuff your face with 5 chocolate chip cookies. It is absolutely possible to train your brain to kick these habits! These habits are the little devils that are very well harming your health, and leaving you feeling out of control, especially this time of year.
How Bad Habits Form
“Good” and “Bad” habits are created over time through consistent action. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit says that all habits start with what he calls, “The Habit Loop.” It’s a 3-part process that consists of a cue (or trigger,) a behavior and a reward. Over time behaviors become automated and the decision-making part of the brain can shut down to focus on other things. Think about things you do on a daily basis that have become second-nature without much thought, like driving your car, brushing your teeth or showering.
This can happen with the food you put in your mouth, and/or your habits, or lack thereof around exercise. If you are in the habit of eating bad food, and you get a reward from it, then it becomes a way of life, until you are ready to change it and start a new behavior in place of it. If you have a habit of scheduling your workouts in the evening, and you find you are too tired and tend to skip them, this becomes hard-wired in your brain.
You must take time to create new habits and take different actions, so that your brain catches on. You need to understand the reward you get from having the bad habits, so that you can shift what you are doing to include a healthier action.
How to Shift Your Bad Habits
One thing I am a huge advocate of when it comes to food and exercise is consistency.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY PEOPLE!
Any action you take consistently over a period of time will become a habit. This is how you retrain your brain.
Look at your current “bad” habits and write them down. Next to each habit, write down the “reward” you are receiving from that habit. There is always a pay off from our habits, even if it’s a not-so-good payoff. I know this sounds crazy, but as humans we often do things habitually that don’t feel good, because we are receiving some sort of satisfaction from it or because it's comfortable in some weird way. Once you understand this, you can start to shift your mindset.
After you have gone through your list of habits, write down a brand spankin’ new one that will support you in being a healthier you. For example, if you are in the habit of mindlessly eating at night while watching TV, a healthier habit to replace that would be to make a cup of tea, or set a commitment to not eat in front of the TV at all. Even small changes can make a huge difference, so figure out baby steps you can take to help you shift the habits that have been haunting you year after year.
See the Change
Yes, I know it all sounds simpler than it is, and we are complex beings with a complex psychology. Just know this, you DO have the power to shift your behavior and it all starts with your awareness around the behavior, knowing what the reward is, and then making a different choice. You are the only one that can choose for you, so commit to the process and see for yourself how your consistent action trains your brain to effortlessly make better choices. Now get busy!