The tenaciousness with which we hold on to behaviors depends on the thickness of the “cable” we have woven and the strength of our desire to change. Your commitment to this program tells me that you have the strength of desire to change, so we can skip right to unweaving the Habit of Disease cables and weaving new Habits of Health cables.
Habits are repeated behaviors that tend to occur subconsciously. Like many of our tendencies, they’re an important part of our neurological programming that almost always served us well 10,000 years ago. Avoiding meandering off the trail in a forest overrun with poisonous prickly bushes was an important adaptive mechanism that our ancestors learned quickly. We use the same adaptive mechanism today as we drive home from work. Ever arrive at a destination and not remember driving there? That’s habit at work.
Habits are formed through repetition. In fact, performing an action over and over again actually causes the neurons in our brain to create the programmed pathways that enable us to automate most of our behaviors. It’s a simple conditioning system that causes us to perform certain actions when we’re given a stimulus or trigger, until those actions become automated.
As we go through our day, we are responding to external and internal triggers that cause us to behave in a certain way. How we respond to these triggers is a complex tapestry of previous conditioning. In an earlier correspondence, we talked about how the core of my approach to weight loss and healthy living started with your mind, and this is what I mean. Giving you a new diet or a new workout plan does nothing to address the triggers that fuel your Habits of Disease.
Changing Your Habits
Essentially, a stimulus produces an action. For a caveman, the stimulus of a saber-toothed tiger emerging from the brush triggered the action of running. Now, a stimulus chain might be something along the lines of watching TV stimulates hunger which triggers the action of eating a bowl of popcorn, and soon you are eating popcorn every time you watch TV.
Changing your habits is a four step process:
- Identify the foundational choices that support optimal health and implement a plan to incorporate them into your daily choices.
- Become aware of the daily choices you make that don’t support health.
- Think long term.
- Create a microenvironment of health by removing as many negative stimuli as possible.
Tomorrow, we’ll start identifying Habits of Disease and reprogramming them to be Habits of Health, but until then, keep taking the stairs!