January 7, 2013

01/07: How is Your Brain Sabotaging Your New Year’s Resolutions?

By mandee

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions yet? For many, the answer is a resounding “No!”.

Why is that? Most people who don’t set resolutions will tell you it is because they don’t work. Some of my friends have even joked about setting “un-resolutions” (contrary to what they want to achieve) in the hopes that, like George Costanza, they will manifest what they want by doing the opposite.

Why is it so hard to change behavior, despite our best intentions? As a NeurOptimal® Brain Spa provider, I can heartily affirm that it is all because of your brain.

When I was a kid, we had a big back yard and two dogs. The dogs had their “paths” that they created in the yard by repeatedly walking through certain parts. They tramped down the grass and wore almost a rut in those places. No matter how much grass seed my dad planted, it never grew because the dogs kept walking on it.

The brain is the same way. We have connections in our brains between our neurons. This is how they communicate with each other to get jobs done. When we use the same “path” over and over, the connections between the neurons get stronger. Sometimes we even receive a “reward” in neurotransmitters (chemicals that help with communication in the brain) that feel good when we repeat the path. We can’t “will” these things away. They are physical structures that must by physically changed before behavior can be permanently altered.

It is possible to change the physical structure by modifying behavior. However, it is very time consuming and not very rewarding. It takes at least three weeks of consistent repetition before a new neural pathway can form. The new pathway is very fragile and can be overridden by the desire to use old pathways. That is why a person may be able to work towards their resolution for a short period of time, but find that their work is undone by a slip back into old behavior.

Often, environmental triggers are what push us down the old path. Stress is a big one. We set our good intentions, have a plan for our new behavior, go to work, and BAM!!! Something happens, we get stressed, our system gets overwhelmed, and we’re back to our old behavior before we even know it.

NeurOptimal® Brain Spa can help with this. How? With a balanced brain, we are less likely to get stressed and overwhelmed with things in our environment and thus can more easily sustain our commitment to engaging in new, more productive behaviors and creating the new neural pathways to sustain those behaviors.

When your brain and your body feel good, when you are not unduly provoked by your environment, and when you are able to regulate your mood and happiness you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. In that light, what New Year’s resolution can brain training help you achieve?