You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

So often, many of us look at making positive health changes in our lives as insurmountable. “But, I need my daily chocolate fix!” “I cannot live without wheat bread and pasta!” “I love my one glass of wine in the evening- it’s my thing!”

We’ve all been there regarding one challenge or another.

It’s so easy to give up entirely on your vow to make healthy changes once you’ve fallen off the wagon the first time: to say, “Well, my habits are so engrained in my brain, there’s nothing I can do to change them!”

Well, sadly, part of that statement just might be true. The habits that seem so difficult to drop appear to be so deeply engrained because our brains favor those neural pathways over the ones that represent more positive choices. Your brain might just prefer the neutral pathway that represents your habit of eating chips over the weaker, less preferred pathway that represents your vow to eat a salad. Sounds hopeless, right? But not so…

The great news is that while it appears to be difficult to completely erase those pesky neural pathways that represent our bad habits, we seem to be able to weaken them and make them less preferred by our brain.

By refusing to give in to the bad habit and instead, persistently practicing the new, healthier lifestyle choice, our brains will not only form a new pathway, it will also begin to prefer it over the bad one.

The bad habit pathway and all of its associated memories, feelings and reinforcements (both positive and negative) might just remain in our brains in a weakened state (which would explain why it is so easy to fall back into the bad habit if you give in just once). But by practicing the more positive lifestyle choice, you can make it a stronger habit than the one you are trying to drop.

>>The more you do it, the stronger the habit becomes<<

The following short video by Smarter Every Day on learning how to ride a backwards bicycle is a cool and inspiring example of this phenomenon. The video focuses on how your brain always has a bias (it prefers one ability, habit, etc. over another) and on how, with determination, practice and time, you can teach your brain to reassign old habits or abilities and gain new more preferred ones.


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Author Pam Bartha

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