How to rewire your brain to break bad habits and create new ones

Growing up I was always known as the “Fat Kid” and because I was practically overweight my entire life I just thoughts that’s who I was.  I’m fat, I’m always going to be fat I just have to accept it.  It took me becoming sick and tired of being sick and tired before my desire to change was actually strong enough to take action.  I knew in order to change I had to have a paradigm shift and change my habits.  One habit I formed at a very early age was to fill any negative void in my life with food. Even today when I become stressed or depressed my first reaction is to turn to food. 

Before my transformation I never really consciously thought about my decisions and the habits I was forming. Like most people I thought my brains was hard wired to think and act a certain way. This old myth is actually not true at all.  While we do have subconscious reactions and basic instincts both can be changed with time and effort.  Our brains are constantly forming new pattern and creating new pathways if we challenge it.

To understand how to change our habits we must first know how one is formed.  When a habit based decision is made, it first starts with some sort of trigger.  If you have a midafternoon soda habit, then a trigger could be being tired or craving something sweet. So you become tired them immediately just react by grabbing a soda for a quick pick me up and it happens repeatedly so much that it becomes a routine. The routine of grabbing the soda is where the habit is formed. The last and probably most important step is the reward.  If you do not feel some type of positive reaction from the behavior you are not going to continually do it.  In the soda example, the reward is the sugar and caffeine rush that awakens you and gives you the energy to power through the rest of your day. The habit cycle to the left is repeated so often in our lives that is becomes deeply ingrained into our subconscious.  Our subconscious is where our reactive decisions (ones made without conscious thought) are made.  Habit-based decisions are put on auto-pilot in our brains and the brains automatically go into “if this then that” mode. 

      We all know which bad habits are causing a negative consequence in our lives.  We also know that we know we need to change them.  If we know those two things, then why don’t we? Because it is hard!  Most research agrees it takes between 40-70 days to rewire your brain for a new habit.  The first step in changing your bad habits is to become self-aware of what triggers them.  You have to identify in yourself why you first started doing it in the first place. It may take up to two weeks before you realize what is the real trigger for this habit.

      The next thing you have to do is to become accountable.  You can either hold yourself accountable or tell someone close to you what your trying to do and ask them to.  I always write down my goals somewhere visible as I want to be constantly reminded of what I need to focus on.  So now that you know what your triggers are and you are holding yourself accountable you need to replace the negative reward with a positive one.  After you are consistently breaking the habit (longer than two days please) reward yourself with something positive.  If you are trying to lose weight, then go buy some new clothes with all the money you saved from your “soda addiction” or if you have a Starbucks addiction you can probably by a lot more clothes by kicking that one.

      Habits are very are to break and often times we do relapse and screw up I know I do all the time.  No one is perfect and life happens. The key is to keep moving forward in a positive direction and learn from mistakes.  Which habit do you need to break and what is something you have done to break a habit?  Comment below or email me at Robby@RobbyDAngelo.com.