HACK YOUR HABITS TO ACHIEVE RADIANCE
Making lifestyle changes to achieve the radiance and confidence you wish for requires some steps on harnessing the power of our minds. Before we create any action in our lives, we first need to create a thought or vision in our minds. We can't count on willpower alone to make changes because it's our rarest form of energy. It runs out.
The rarest form of action for is intentional repetition because nearly 50% of what we do, think, or say every day is a habit. The brain, like the body, is designed to adjust itself based on use (muscle memory). Brain neurons that fire together wire together; which means our brains become hardwired into certain patterns.
We all know the basic healthy habits (which all impact how we look); which are maintaining a healthy body weight, getting daily exercise, not smoking or drinking, getting sleep, and eating a healthy diet. But why is it so hard to follow through?
There’s three things that keep us in a rut:
- Many things we do each day are due to a hardwired habit loop cycling in our brain.
- We don’t have the support we need.
- Our environment is not conducive to our goals.
Let’s chat about habits -
Habits are way to increase the brains efficiency. Brain power is the most expensive resource in the body. Our brain uses it’s power to make daily activities into a repetitive loop so it doesn’t have to continually expend energy each day on that specific thought pattern or action. Think of learning to drive a car, for example. When you first started driving it took a lot of concentration but over time it became easier and now you probably listen to podcasts, or have conversations while driving which tells you that your brain has made the actions of driving automatic.
Doing something repeatedly makes it become easier and easier. This is called “chunking” in neuroscience and is the root of how habits are formed. We rely on dozens, if not hundreds, of behavioral chunks every day. Some of them are pretty simple (tooth brushing) and others slightly more complex (driving kids to school).
All these chunks follow a three-step loop and understanding this loop is the foundation for knowing how to make behavioral change: Cue, routine, and reward.
- Cue tells your brain to go into autopilot - no conscious thought required
- Routine: This may be physical, mental (thoughts) or emotional (feelings)
- Reward: Dopamine hit which makes your brain remember if it’s worthwhile to remember this loop
The more we engage an action, thought, or feeling, the more automatic it becomes. We begin to crave the reward which perpetuates the habit loop. Once a habit emerges, our brain stops participating consciously. We get stuck in the cues and reward pattern and become unaware of what we’re doing.
The anticipation of the reward begins driving what you do and if you don’t get the reward, the craving grows until you finally give in. Simply the sense of anticipation increases dopamine. You’re likely not even consciously aware of this happening.
This is what’s happening with smoking and same with app notifications on our phone. App companies know about this habit loop in our brains and they employ brain scientists to who maximize the addictive qualities of phone notifications. When you hear the chime, your brain starts anticipating the reward you’ll get when you check it. That anticipation builds up dopamine until you finally reach for your phone to check the message. Did you know that those chimes have been designed by brain hackers?
The good news is that our brain can change itself if we consciously put new habits into motion. In order to change an old/bad habit or create a brand-new habit you need to start with your mind. Starting a new habit with visualization will make it more likely that you’ll actualize it. Imagine the cue, routine, and reward of the habit you’d like to set in motion. Thoughts are electrical impulses in your brain. We only do things that we first see ourselves doing.
In order to create new habits you need to follow a four step process:
- Identify your routine
- Identify reward
- Isolate cue
- Make a plan
For smoking, your cue might be seeing someone smoking or a pack of cigarettes on the counter, your habit change could be eating nicotine gum which will give you’re the nicotine fix reward. Eventually you can start backing down on the gum and replacing it with a habit you’d rather have in your life.
Set yourself up for success by giving yourself mini-celebrations continually. It may seem odd to shout out a woohoo or pump your fist in the air but our actions affects our feelings (there’s tons of studies on this) plus it releases endorphins (feel good hormones). Say you avoided the junk food and ate a healthy snack, give yourself a literal pat-on-the-back or do a little celebratory dance! It's a simple but powerful brain hack, girl!
Remember that our old habits are going to keep trying to pull us back into our comfort zone – the zone we know. It’s easier for our brain. So we have to break through that to create a new pattern of thinking. It usually takes 3-4 weeks to set a new habit in place.
Start now and don’t deviate!