Our brains are designed all the way back to the Stone Age, where dangers lurked everywhere, so establishing habits was a good guarantee of having the surplus to be able to react when the dangers arose. Habits are an unconscious and automatic action that we still need to this day, otherwise we would not be able to do all the things we do in just one day. In fact, up to 90% of our behavior is governed by habits.
In order to break a habit, it is necessary to examine a little in what that habit is about – that is, what is it that triggers you to perform the habit, and what thoughts you have at that moment. Is it a conflict at work that makes you go crazy in the candy bag in the drawer? Is it the taste of Friday that makes you open the bag of chips and gobble up so many that you barely have an appetite for dinner? Is it the smell of coffee that makes you light a cigarette? the list goes on ..
You need to find out if the habit is due
- a cohesive fold that triggers the need (e.g. a good movie on TV requires a bag of sweets, opening your mailbox at work in the morning requires a Viennese melange from the coffee machine, etc.)
- a need for reward
- a need for comfort
- a need to unwind / relax
- an ingrained pattern that you have “adopted” from your parents, boyfriend
When you try to change a habit, your brain becomes restless and tries to fight your decision. It takes a lot of repair work for the brain to establish new habits, so it may actually go on to become somewhat lethargic. Therefore, it is important that you do not try to change all your bad habits at once, so that the brain can adjust to the new situation at a leisurely pace – thus the abstinences do not become so violent either. When we change e.g. eating habits we touch on a whole lot of emotions, the safe habits, our self-perception and our relationship with other people.
One must first acknowledge what it is one would like to have changed and then lay out a strategy for how it should be done. It is about finding a proper replacement for the habit, as a cold Turk rarely succeeds unless one has a very special mindset.
So it’s about the following
- Analyze the habit you want to change – what is it about, what triggers it and what do you think when you perform it?
- Write down what you get positive out of changing the habit – ie. what motivates you to change it?
- Find good alternatives to your habit – if you are in the Lord’s field here, get inspiration from your friends, colleagues, dietician and others.
- When the urge to perform the habit comes, postpone it – tell it to come back later and distract yourself
And then you ask for sure – “How long does it take for the brain to establish the new network and the new roadways?”.
The answer is that it depends a lot on how ingrained your habit is – some habits only take 3 days to put on autopilot, whereas others require somewhat longer work.
But the good news is, our brains are constantly changing, which means you CAN change your bad habits – as long as you focus on what you want to achieve. Where you focus your attention, you create and strengthen brain connections.