Integrative Medicine Blog

New Resolutions and Taking Your Life Back

Meaghan Sanderson FNP-BC Sunday, January 06, 2019

How to break bad habits and retrain your brain!

With the New Year recently taking shape, now is a time when many people make a New Year’s resolution to break a habit. All individuals develop and create habits within their lifetime, whether it be good or bad. There are some habits that we develop that help us to be productive and consistent, such as your morning routine, getting ready for work, or going to your exercise class everyday in the morning. You feel accomplished and ready to start your day on the right foot. However there are other habits we develop that can inhibit our abilities to achieve our greatest potentials. For over 160 million Americans this would include poor nutrition, lack of exercise, addiction, or poor self-control.

If any of you are suffering from a difficult habit and have the willfulness to make a change, I would highly encourage you to read the book, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life & Business” by Charles Duhigg. I’d like to briefly share with you a personal story that helped me change my bad habit: poor nutrition. I’ve never been a skinny woman, but last year after getting on the scale that I hadn’t seen in nearly a year and reminiscing through pictures of myself with friends and family from a few years ago, I realized how much weight I had truly gained. Last I re-call, 50-60 pounds are not added within one day. After coming to this realization, I became depressed and very upset with myself and felt like a failure. After reflecting on this, I also realized that I am the only one who can make any change about my weight. I decided I needed to start taking care of myself before I can take care of others. It was time to break the bad habit. According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit, however this number can range anywhere from 18-254 days depending on the individual. I purchased this book and read it. I enrolled in a Nutrition program starting in August 2018 to guide me on appropriate nutrition for my body and added in exercise more regularly. I made this my NEW habit. I’m happy to report that since late August 2018, I was able to accomplish losing nearly 30 pounds and found a new spark in myself. This form of change can be applied to any habit that you’d like to break. Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for other ways to conserve effort. The habit formation within our brain is a three-step loop: automatic mode, routine (physical, mental, or emotional), and finally reward. Habits can be extremely powerful because they create neurological cravings, and the cravings emerge so gradually that you don’t even realize they exist. In order to create a new habit, you need to put together a cue, a routine, and a reward and cultivate a craving that drives the loop. You can erase a bad habit by using the same cue, provide the same reward, but change the routine. One ingredient that is necessary for some habits is belief. To succeed at forming this new habit, you need a keystone habit that creates our culture and environment - such as a daily gathering of like-minded individuals to help find the strength to overcome obstacles. Habits emerge within the brain and often we don’t have the ability to control them, but we’re conscious and aware of them. With that said, it’s still our responsibility to cultivate our own habits and take care of our own life.

What is your New Year’s Resolution and are you ready to take back your own life?