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We all have some not-so-good habits. What’s yours? Are you a junk food fanatic? Do you often skimp on sleep? Are you a couch potato? A smoker?
Habits are a normal part of life. Some are more serious or harder to break than others. About 70 percent of smokers say they would like to quit. Why is it so hard to break a habit, especially if you know it’s not good for you?
Habits are patterns of behavior that arise through repetition. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have studied what happens in our brains as habits form.
Habits are deeply wired into our brains by constant repetition. Some habits are helpful. When behaviors become automatic, it frees up our brains to focus on different things. We wake up, brush our teeth, shower and get dressed without having to think much about it. We can drive to a familiar destination without even realizing how we got there.
Habits can also develop when enjoyable events trigger the brain’s “reward” centers. The pleasure-based habits are much harder to break. When you enjoy doing something, it prompts your brain to release a chemical called dopamine, which strengthens the habit even more and creates the craving to do it again.
According to the NIH, “This can set up potentially harmful routines, such as overeating, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling and even compulsive use of computers and social media.”
The good news is, we as humans can change our behavior. “Maintaining a change requires continued commitment until the change becomes a part of your life,” says Dr. Linda Nebeling, an expert at NIH. “People who can maintain or engage in efforts to change their behavior, and do it for 6 to 8 weeks, are more likely to be able to support that effort longer term.”
If you’re looking to make a healthy change in the new year, challenge yourself to break a bad habit. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Try these 8 tips to help make the break:
It may not be easy to break a bad habit, but with enough determination, you can take charge of your life and form healthy habits instead. Good luck!
If you’ve tried all you can and still can’t seem to break a bad or unhealthy habit, consider seeing a professional therapist. Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.
Were you able to break a bad habit? How did you do it? Share with us in the comments!
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