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New year, fresh start!

We're here! Beginning of the year. Ha! January, the month of new year's good resolutions. Remember all these times in December you told yourself: "Starting January...". Well it's now.

So what is it for your this year? Get fit, lose weight, meditate, buy less shoes?

It can really feel overwhelming. How do you get there? What are you going to do to make it happen? When? And how long is it going to take? Even when the motivation feels strong, it fades pretty quick and at the beginning of February most of us are back to the old ways.

Why is that? Why even when we start strong, super motivated and decided to get there, wherever that is, we fall back into our old patterns?

Very simple: habits. That's why. Habits are behaviours we repeated so many times that they are engraved into our brain, so deep that we don't even need to think about it. The behaviour just happens. It's part of our routine. These imprints into our brain are called neural pathways.

Just picture a grass field where people walked on the same places again and again. At a certain point the grass stops to grow on these places and a path forms.

The way habits form is similar. This is how we can perform some behaviours on "automatic pilot" mode. You know like driving to work. You've done this so many times, that sometimes you get there without remembering your drive. Or you get a new job and someday you find yourself driving to the old one.

These neuro pathways forming habits exist for a very important reason. They are saving precious energy. Remember the first time you had to perform a specific behavior. Take walking for example. When we're kids and learn how to walk, it costs a lot of efforts. Our brain, our muscles need to learn how to find balance, how to put one foot in front of the other without falling etc... Finally we did it! We walked. First it looks kind of funny how babies walk. But with time and practice, they walk better and better. Are you ever thinking about how to walk today? No. Unless you're practicing walking meditation or walking as a sport, it does not take you much effort.

The part of our brain responsible for habits is the oldest part/layer of the brain, also called the reptilian brain. I spare you the scientific terms. This lizard brain of ours is involved with all primitive drives such as hunger, thirst, sexuality, habits and procedural memory (brushing your teeth or placing your keys in the same spot each time you come home without thinking about it). This part of our brain is in charge of our survival behaviors. This is exactly what the lizard brain makes of any habit. There's no good or bad habit only survival.

This is the reason habits are so powerful. It's also why we often struggle with change.

I'm sure you're familiar with the inner battle when you for example try to start a new healthy habit or stop an unhealthy one. Let say you want to go to the gym 3 times a week. You've been really good for a while but, huh!... third week in, you're tired and time has come to go to the gym. The battle begins:

- "Go to the gym!"

- "I'm so tired! Maybe I'll just stay home and watch Netflix"

- "Go to the gym, it's good for you."

- "Don't go you're tired, you'll go tomorrow."

And so on. Go, don't go...

In the end the already established habit (get home, eat and watch Netflix) wins. Because the reptilian brain sees it as necessary for your survival.

You're certainly asking yourself now how you get out of your old habit and into a new one? How do we get our reptilian brain to work for us?

Well, now you know more about how habits form, understanding how they work is key to behavioral change.

A habit is a loop, starting with a trigger, a cue which is followed by a craving pushing us to perform the behavior. When it happens, when the behavior takes place, our lizard brain makes sure it feels good and rewards us by releasing happy brain chemicals. Satisfying the craving feels good and changes our state. You want to eat that cookie or smoke that cigarette because of feeling of pleasure or relief it provides.

Tracking your current habits, observing how they get triggered is a great start to hack in and change. Make sure you understand which cues are the trigger and make some change in this area allows to avoid the craving which takes a whole lot of effort to not give in. Another way is to make sure the current reward, of doing the habit gets as low as possible.

Establishing new habits goes the other way around. Find the right cues to trigger the new behavior. A really great hack is to tie a new habit to an existing one. And make sure the reward is appropriated. At a certain point, when you've repeated the new behavior enough times, you won't need to think about it anymore. Eating your salad and going to the gym will just be who you are.

Habits come in many forms: thought patterns, reactions to specific situations, different sorts of behaviours... They are so powerful that we even let them define who we are. Think about it. When you're in the habit of eating healthy and working out, you'll most probably define yourself as a healthy and fit person. You'll believe yourself be a healthy and fit person. Same thing goes for the opposite. I've heard so many clients say: "I tried so many times, sport's just not for me." Or: "Nah! I simply can't sit and be quiet, that's not me."

I said these last words many times! Believe me when you have ADHD, you deeply believe yourself to be unable to sit down to watch your breath and meditate even for two minutes! But guess what? I made it a habit to sit down and meditate. To practice breathwork every single day.

I'm no different from anyone else! We all can change, get into new habits and let go old ones not serving us.

We just need the right tools so it becomes simple and easy to change for good.

Need some help? Get in touch or check the agenda for the next workshop.

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