Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How to Switch Bad Habits into Good Habits.

6 Quick Tips to Trick and Train your Brain to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions

Only less than 10% of us will keep our New Year’s resolutions, so how can we break bad habits and replace them with new ones? And stick to them? “Train your Brain,” says psychologist Dr. Renee Clauselle.

TV personality, Dr. Renee Clauselle, of Child and Family Psychology, has 6 very engaging tips to share so "The Resolute" among us can confidently make their lists, go for their goals and positively impact their lives.

Habits are just behavior performed so routinely that it becomes almost automatic and rewarding for us in some way. Our brains develop neural pathways to lead us to a reward, triggered a dopamine release, also known as the pleasure hormone and the more times this pathway is traveled to and rewarded, the stronger the habit will become. The good news is that objects or sensations that are pleasing or necessary for us can also be employed to motivate us to establishing good habits.

The key is attach new pleasurable associations as cues to new routines. To make it easier to stick with your New Year’s resolution, think of the things you find pleasure in, these increase your dopamine release, therefore, attach those things to your new routine or new plan.

Specific tips for Creating New Habits


Step 1:  First, use Creative Awareness and “un-charge” old habits and all of their effects of pleasure to shift the associated remorse or guilt in fun ways. For example, imagine you are on a reality show coached by a team of experts or imagine that old reward, such as ice-cream, melting instead into a huge pair of old pants to be discarded from the "past" or the "before" picture of the heavier you.

Step 2:  ID your new habits and practice experiencing their associate rewards. What habits would you like to create? Find images of the habits, put your face on that fit body in the ad, and envision or visualize a pleasure response to attach to that habit. For example, visualize and practice actually experiencing the endorphin rush you will get from running five miles or sticking to your exercise routine.

Step 3:  Score the Music.  Put your favorite up-tempo song on your iPod and link that song with the process of going to the gym or the health food store, or even thinking about it, or when the excuses begin to creep in. Thus, the pleasure received from hearing your favorite song will be attached to the process and new habit.

Step 4:  Laughter is the Best Medicine and it’s own reward.  Use your humor to spur you on. Invent fun things like calendar reminder calling you to “Wake up Gorgeous” timed to the alarm to get up to go to the gym or put an image of an unattractive and overweight person inside the cookie jar. The laughter and the reminder of your own support of yourself is a strong reward.

Step 5:  Linked in: Associations Habits are more easily broken when surrounding associations are changed as well. Think of triggers for your old habit and change what they mean to you, for example, don’t equate coffee with cigarettes; begin to equate it with something else, like a crossword puzzle or calling a friend. Repeat the linking process several times until it becomes automatic.

Step 6:  Set your brain up for success. Perhaps your goal is to lose 10 pounds. Link and create a visual "reward" tied to the success of that goal to something familiar and easily seen in your environment, like a red car. Every time you see a red car, you’ll be reminded that you will lose 10 pounds, are on your way to losing 10 pounds and therefore “success” is all around and already happening.

Step 7:  It Takes A Village.  Line and link up your family and friends as buddies for a no-fail system of mutual support. If you want to see your teenager save some money, maybe they put $10. into a bank each time you go to the gym or you cooking a healthy meal at home equates to your husband taking you on a movie date.

Try to change only one habit at a time. Break your goal down into more specific, smaller, trackable parts, if possible. Instead of making a resolution to be healthier, create a goal of walking 30 minutes a day, three times a week. This way you can celebrate your success incrementally instead of playing that old song of not keeping your New Year's Resolutions, because this year you have " trained your brain."

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Dr. Clauselle is a practicing psychologist and Director of School Mental Health Services at St. John's University. Her website is http://psychologists4kids.com/.

You can watch Dr. Clauselle on GMA Healthy Living and other TV shows by clicking here, and her popular blog on many subjects can be found by clicking here. Dr. Clauselle is also very active in social media and is happy to link to your article and site to help drive traffic and mutually build audience.

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