Habits are unconsciously derived from early childhood experiences and are often repeated because of the lack of awareness surrounding them. These daily actions are automatic as a way for your body and brain to conserve energy. The majority of what you do is not even thought about before doing it.
You are what you repeatedly do. The brain doesn’t like to work anymore than it has to. Therefore, you will return to the route (old habit) that is easiest and most familiar, even if it isn’t healthy. This is what is referred to as Neuroplasticity. The connections in your brain are reinforced the more you use them, and break down the less you use them. It is like driving down a road; you will almost always choose the one you have driven before, the one that is paved and without debris. A new habit is going to look more like a road that is unpaved, with logs and boulders in the way, preventing you from driving down that road. Here, your brain elicits the prefrontal cortex (which is your thinking brain, the area that requires conscious effort and intention.) This recruitment takes energy, and is why you feel resistance and quit before you even begin.
Okay, enough brain stuff. You want to know how to start a new habit. Well, before you start a new habit- you will have to break the chain of the old habit first.
Let’s talk FRICTION.
In order to create a new habit, you must build friction (or resistance) around the old habit you are trying to replace. For example, if you are wanting to watch less tv before bed, you may consider removing the TV from your bedroom and placing it in another room that requires more effort (and conscious thinking) to watch TV.
On the other hand, you will want to reduce the friction around any new habits you are trying to create. In order to succeed in forming a new habit, you must create conditions that encourage it— and limiting friction will help you do that. For example, laying out your gym clothes the night before may reduce your friction for waking up in the morning to workout. Sounds simple, sorta like it wouldn’t matter either way, right? Wrong. If you really dissected why you don’t go to the gym in the morning, you may notice that finding that one damn sock is a big deal. 😉
You can use this tool in every aspect of rewiring. For example, if you are working to respond more patiently to your children, perhaps your friction is to count to 10 before reacting. This is building a new “road” in your brain, as opposed to driving down the old “road” of screaming at them. Over time, you will notice you aren’t intentionally counting to 10, but you are responding with more patience. Success!
Consistency, small steps, and conscious thinking will get you where you want to go. Become aware of that small window that occurs just after a stimulus and before your response. Here, you can choose to pick up your old habit, or utilize friction to avoid it and gain momentum with a new one instead. Pick one thing today that you want to change and work on that, until it becomes something you are automatically doing. Then move on to the next. Use friction as your tool to begin, and let me know how it goes?
Yours in healing,