April 7, 2024

The Beauty And Science Of Change

Everyone wants change, but no one wants to change

It’s funny how we crave so many of the refreshing side effects of “change” – the latest tech gadget, a fresh coat of paint, an exciting vacation adventure, or a new grandchild. But when it comes to accepting or making “change” in our lives, it can be so darn scary! Many of us even try to ignore or reject it as if it might go away if we resist it long enough. 

Did you know that our brains are wired to resist change? Two key reasons explain our brain’s resistance:

  • Energy Conservation: Our brains prioritize efficiency. The amygdala, responsible for fear and survival, uses less energy than the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning and experiencing new things. Sticking to routines keeps our brain in a low-energy state, so it naturally resists change.
  • Uncertainty and Threat: Change disrupts familiar patterns. The amygdala perceives this disruption as a potential threat, triggering a fight-or-flight response. This negativity bias makes us focus on the potential dangers of change, overshadowing possible benefits.

This is why it’s important to be patient with ourselves. Start small and celebrate each win along the way…and be aware that we may be sabotaging ourselves unknowingly.

While routines are certainly helpful and comfortable, a regular tweak or habit shake-up is like sunshine for our entire being.

Brain Boost: Learning new things builds new connections between our brain cells. This keeps our minds sharp and strengthens our memory

Physical state: New routines challenge different muscles, forcing them to adapt and grow stronger. It’s like giving our body a fun new puzzle to solve (Mojo!)

Soul Spark: Life can get stale in a comfort zone. Creating new habits and routines can break us out of a rut, sparking a sense of accomplishment and adventure. Trying new things can open doors to hidden passions we never knew we had.

40% of what we do every day isn’t a decision — it’s a habit.
Research from Duke University shows that If we can learn to curb a few of our naughtier behaviors, we can change our lives.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit”, the secret to developing healthier and happier habits is: Do Less.

“You don’t need to overhaul your life. Like any project, scratch off one behavior at a time. In general, people should consider change as a project that takes a little while. It’s worth spending a month to change one behavior permanently. You’re going to be reaping the benefits of that behavior for the next decade.”

Ready to scratch off some behaviors? Here’s 5 science-backed steps to consider, borrowed from, “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” (Great Stuff!)

  • Awareness -That cigarette doesn’t magically appear in your mouth. Being aware that you are acting habitually is a big first step.
  • Find Your Triggers – Now that you’re noticing when you do your habits, focus on what triggers them. Stress? Friends? Identifying your triggers is key.
  • Replace Your Triggers – Assigning new habits to established triggers is far easier. What are you going to do now when that trigger arises? (Eg. Instead of a glass of wine, my hubby will replace the urge with sparkling water in a nice goblet with a squeeze of lime. It has worked wonders for us!)
  • Manipulate your environment – Don’t rely on willpower. The importance of self-control is one of the biggest myths about habit change. Instead, manipulate your environment so you don’t have to exert self-control. Throw out the donuts. Hide the booze.

Don’t Give Up! Changing habits takes an average of 66 days (establishing competency in new skills takes approximately 8 weeks as well) so hang in there.

The 20-second rule: According to behavior economist, Shawn Achor, “If you can make bad habits 20 seconds harder to begin, you’re far less likely to engage in them.” Take all the caloric goodies off the counter and put them in the pantry – or in the garage. Steve’s Kansas City Topsy’s popcorn goes directly into the garage every Christmas season. LOL

Make it harder for temptation to strike by getting your workout gear ready the night before. The night before class, you might have every intention of getting to class. But in the next morning or after work, it’s easy for the interest in getting a good sweat to trickle away with the ‘to-do’ list. The sooner you get your tennis shoes on, the less likely you will change your mind. Remember how good you always feel afterward!

Keep healthy snacks easily accessible: When is your bewitching hour? For many, it’s 3:00 pm. Grabbing a handful of nuts, an apple with peanut butter (a fave), frozen grapes (another fave) or a protein bar is far better fuel than a bag of chips. A combination of protein with a healthy carb (fruit) will help keep your stomach cravings at bay. It takes a little preparation, but it could make an immediate difference in your energy level, your waistline, and your life.

Schedule your workouts: Decide on the best time of day for you to exercise, and make it a non-negotiable part of your daily routine. Write it down in your calendar or planner and treat it as an appointment that cannot be missed. Can’t get to class? Do it online. No time? Do it for 5 minutes. It’s a deal you are making with yourself. No cheating!

Change the way you perceive the word “exercise” or “working out” Remember when recess was the best part of your day? For some reason, our zombie, innately lazy brains, have convinced many of us that “exercise” is an unappealing activity. Change the word and your attitude toward it. “Mojo” anyone?

 

 

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