Habits, we all have habits. Habits are, ideally, shortcuts to behavior we find useful. Once we make something a habit we can do it without thinking, we put it on automatic pilot. The problem, of course is that some habits are not our friends and we find ourselves doing things we’d rather not do, or that have bad or inconvenient consequences for us. Habits can hijack our best-intended behavior.
Our brain is a willing partner in helping us form habits. The neurons in our brain have dendrites at the end. Information jumps from the dendrites of one neuron to the dendrites of another. If we do something over and over we collect a lot of neurons that are engaged in making that activity happen. If we do it really, really often then the brain figures that this is important and to make it happen even easier it covers these neurons with white stuff called myelin. It’s a bit like paving a highway versus a muddy road, same path, but you can go faster.
Get angry a lot? What about those ‘hot buttons?’ See a spider and scream? Each of these denotes a myelin-paved path that the brain has made very easy for that information to go down. These experiences are sometimes called an amygdala hijack. They happen fast and make us feel like we are out of control.
Being ‘out of control’ is sort’a true, but the good news is that you can get that control back. Neuroplasticity – the ability of your brain to change, is something that you can actually stimulate. In doing so you actually change the structure of your brain. This is what happens when you consciously decide to ‘break’ a habit.
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Kathryn Alexander, MA Author
A student of human nature, of living systems, ethics and now neurobiology and brain science - I see the same thing everywhere - we need to get reconnected: to ourselves, others and the planet!
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