New Year, New Habits: Rewiring Your Brain

by Fabian Boie, M.S.

How would you like to be able to reset your brain so that this year you will go to gym weekly, read books instead of watching TV or learn a new language in a few months. Well, according to a book I read over the Winter Holiday, you CAN!

“Meet Your Happy Chemicals” is an easy-read book by Loretta Graziano Breuning who provides you with your brain’s user manual-the beginner version. If you want to know how to turn on and off your good-feeling brain chemicals by doing (or not doing) things, this book is a good start. For example, have you ever wondered why you keep checking your phone for new messages, although it did not vibrate? Also, why the heck is it so difficult to start working on that dissertation or clean your desk, although they are so overdue? On the other hand is it so much easier to turn on the TV, grab that snack or check your Facebook wall. WHY? Is our brain irrational? Well, maybe, but it certainly managed to keep you alive so far, which is its main function, like it or not!

We all have daily, weekly, yearly habits, don’t we? One is that of making New Year’s resolutions. For every habit that you have developed (some since you were a baby), you developed brain circuits that make that type of neural information flow easier. For example, one would rather read, while another would watch TV, or you may want to go to a party while your wife would rather go shoe shopping. Well, your brain does this to you, after months and years of practicing the same habits to the point to creating “mental highways” of habit, positive and negative alike. If you want to develop a new habit, you will have to practice it for 45 days straight, according to the author. If you stick with it for 45 days, despite how you feel, you will rewire your brain into a new healthy habit. After that critical point, it will come almost naturally to you. In other words, Just Do It for 45 days! The rest is history.

Are we even aware of our habits? You should try to pay some attention to what things you tend to do repeatedly in the same way. Do you smoke when you get angry or bored? Do you procrastinate? Do you carry on? Well, the way your brain was wired by evolution sometimes interferes with our daily modern life. We cannot stay overly excited about anything, even if it is a new car, a new computer or even a new wife. Our brain gets bored easily unless you learn how to use it and enjoy more happy brain chemicals and less unhappy ones (notice I did not say “only” good brain chemicals, which is not adaptive).

I am not going to spoil the surprise of reading the book, and I hope I made you curious about it. If I did, well, I managed to give you a jolt of sweet Dopamine, which should trigger your desire to seek the book out and take a look. Let me know if you did and what you think. If you do so, I will reply to your comment and we will both get a spurt of Oxitocyn, which bonds people socially. Hmmm, feels so good already! Have a happy new year with lots of good habits!

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