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Habits - Out with the Old, in with the New!

So much of our life is determined by the habits we keep. Those small things we do consistently are what dictate the outcomes we experience and the quality of life that we live. Although it is easy to do things once a habit is instilled, it can seem difficult to form new ones and even more so to break old habits.

So what exactly is a habit and how is one formed or broken?

Essentially, habit formation is the nervous system's ability to have a triggered response leading to set behaviors. This process is referred to as Neuroplasticity. This is the nervous system's ability to change its response to stimuli both coming from within and externally along with adapting the brain connections to do so. Simply put, neuroplasticity is what our brain relies on to make and break habits.

Imagine that our brain is like the Arizona desert. All throughout our brain we have little trails made of neurons that communicate by sending electrical impulses from place to place. The more these pathways are used, the more imprinted this neuronal pathway gets, similar to the more trafficked trails in the desert. If we are unsatisfied with one of our habits, or trying to integrate a new activity into our daily routine, that means it is time to take a new pathway!

Since the brain is limited in the amount of pathways that it can form, building new habits is the secret to breaking old habits as well!

The mind is much more adaptable than we give it credit for. Our brain can be viewed as a dynamic, connected power grid. If we keep on practicing a certain activity, or keep on thinking a certain way, or even feel a specific emotion, this pathway strengthens making it less of a task and more second nature to us. Similar to how pouring our morning coffee, brushing our teeth, or checking our phone might be. But how does one get this process in motion before losing motivation all together?

How to get rid of negative habits and replace them with positive ones?

Eliminate the triggers: Since the brain is trained to respond to triggers, eliminating the ones that promote the bad habit is first and foremost. Let’s say the habit you’re working on replacing is going straight home from work and eating junk food on your couch. Getting rid of all of the junk food in your house is one great way to eliminate your triggers.

Create a new cue: Our goal, of course, is to replace the bad habit with a good one, so perhaps we switch up our evening routine and add a new cue. If we want to be more productive with our post-work hours, instead of going right home after clocking out, we commit to going straight to the gym. A great cue to put in place for this situation is to leave your gym bag in your car each morning so you are prepared when you get off.

Establish a new routine: Make this new habit a part of your new routine. Commit to this new routine like you would a mandatory work meeting, or long planned trip. Put it in your calendar and stay committed to your plan with and for yourself.

Give yourself a reward: This is the fun part of forming a new habit… the reward! Give yourself something to look forward to. Perhaps you let yourself have your favorite protein shake after every gym workout.

Have a support system: Another major contributor to forming a habit, especially in the beginning, is having a support system. You may not feel motivated all of the time so having some extra accountability on those days goes a long way. Being a part of a community, in-person or virtually, can help bring you so much closer to your goal. In fact, studies suggest that there is power in numbers when it comes to achieving goals, especially fitness related ones. Working with a professional to help keep you on track can be another helpful tool.

When it comes to habit-forming, and more importantly, knowing what habits you should be working towards adapting, it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Whether you’re addressing form, function, nutrition or just working towards a better functioning you, Transcend Wellness Chiropractic is here to help! Get in touch and ask us how!

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