neuro science

Breaking the chains of habit

Habits keep us chained to behaviours that continually cause us pain. It's like we are suckers for punishment, knowing that what we are doing is not good for us but somehow we just don't know how to help ourselves. 

I'm fascinated by how easy it is to be drawn back into our old ways, old patterns of behaviour, it's something I've experienced recently and it took me by surprise. It's not until you are totally sucked in that you begin to realise how easy it is to be trapped again, repeating old, familiar habits. It can be simple things such as our daily habits, like unhealthy eating or more complex habits, such as our repeating behaviours in relationships with others. 

Nothing ever just springs out of it's own accord, all our actions follow a thought

When we start to pay attention, we pick up on the thoughts that precede the habit behaviours and that's why it's so important to be on constant guard of our mind. It is this lack of self-regulation that allows our thoughts to take control, we let them run wild and before we know it we are acting these thoughts out. 

Our Thoughts Are Habits

Our thoughts are just habits, they are always repeating, nothing new just the same old stories going round and round. They are not fresh thoughts, they are past and future based and they instigate our actions. Our mind is out of control, no peace, no quiet, just those same old same old thoughts.

The problem is that these habits often go back to our childhood, they have taken a lot of time to become deeply ingrained and because of this, it takes real effort to break out of them. However, we rarely have what is needed to break these habit because we form then unconsciously but breaking them requires a conscious commitment. 

The challenge is that even when we decide we would like to break free from a habit and make a commitment to change, we find it's not that easy to do. We may work hard at it and for a while, it feels like you've got hold of this habit finally. Then we reaslise that as soon as we take our eyes off the ball, we are soon back where we started, doing the same old thing over again. This is why it's so hard for people to stop smoking or lose weight because they rely on willpower, however, as the brain is hardwired willpower alone does not work. 

Willpower Alone Does Not Work

The only way to break these destructive and harmful habits is to re-wire our brain so it can take a different pathway. The scientific term for this is neuroplasticity, where we consciously make an effort to change our neuropathway. Habits are created by a consistent action or thought, we keep doing until it becomes automatic. We call that a habit and the more we repeat, the more it becomes who we think we are and then we become chained with no escape. 

Our brain is built to create pathways that enable us to perform certain tasks automatically, we need to do this to function in life. It's absolutely necessary to know how to drive your car without having to learn it over and over, it's important to know how to jump out of the way of an oncoming car, these are all tasks that we perform on autopilot. However, what we tend to do is live on autopilot, not really being conscious of what we are doing, when we are doing it and our habits take over our lives.

Science now shows us that our brain is not static and it is possible to change. Good news for us when we want to free ourselves from these chains of habit. We can replace the old, negative thoughts and behaviours with new positive thoughts and behaviours, until they become our new habits. But it isn't easy and sometimes we need help to do this. 

Mindfulness As A Tool To Break Habits

It's not easy to change habits because it requires a conscious effort. And that's exactly where Mindfulness comes in. 

Through Mindfulness we train our brain to create new pathways, we do this through developing awareness of thoughts and getting to know our mind better. With a clearer understanding of our own mind, we are also able to take some control. It is only when we are aware of how and what triggers us to behave in certain ways, that we can start to break those patterns of behaviour that are not to our benefit.

The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken

So if you want to learn how to use Mindfulness to break the chains of habit, then why not join our 4 week online course staring soon? Nothing to loose and everything to gain - link below to find out more.


Your Mind is Your Reality

Through my Mindfulness practice I have come to really see how my mind is the lens through which I experience life. Whatever we think is our reality, however we don't always realise the importance of fully understanding this. When we start to be totally aware of what our mind is doing, we can see how distorted it can be. 

What I have come to accept is that I can turn a good situation into a bad one just through my thoughts. I can turn a loving, kind person into my enemy, through my negative thoughts. I can be angry for no reason, except that my mind said there was a reason. Mindfulness has taught me that I am at the mercy of my mind unless I learn how to tame this wild animal.

Of course I am also guided by the great Buddhist teachings after all what Buddha taught is mind training.  

"The Mind is everything. What you think you become" - Buddha

Knowing that our mind is the lens through which we experience life is both good and bad news. It means we are in charge of how we perceive everything in our life. We can change it just from the way we interpret any given experience. The bad thing about that is, we now have to take full responsibility for everything, no more blaming outside entities!

Does this mean that there are no "bad" experiences or that we should sugar coat everything so we deny pain and suffering? Certainly not, it's this very thing that creates our suffering, pretending things are not as they are doesn't change anything. 

One thing that really gave me a wake up call was when my marriage ended. It was the first time that I actually became aware of how quick the mind could change. It took a second to change from seeing my ex-husband as the "good" guy to seeing him as an enemy. That's how powerful our mind is, it only takes a second to change our mind if we are hurt or threatened.  

Every minute of the day we change how we see a particular person just from what they say to us or how they behave. One minute we are crazy in love because everything is going our way, then we hate the very same person because they did something we didn't want. That person hasn't changed, they are still the same but our mind has made up a story to convince us differently.

How many times do you make up your mind about someone you see? You quickly judge a stranger, based on their clothes, colour, gender and a whole set of other labels. They can instantly be a threat, until they smile at you and suddenly your mind tells you, no they are nice after all. 

The mind is it's own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven - John Milton

How true is this? Our mind can make our life heaven or hell, how many states of mind do you go through in one day? I know that my mind changes in an instant. I can be as calm as a still stream in the morning until I get in the car and someone cuts me up, then suddenly the world is an ugly place. 

So here's the thing, Mindfulness teaches us to catch that thought before it goes off on one, before it takes control and leads us into muddy waters. Mindfulness teaches us to Stop - Breath - And take a step back. 

Do you know anyone who is constantly angry, or that can't see good thing in anyone else? Perhaps you see it in yourself? Now you are aware of the power of the mind, you know you are also able to change. And Mindfulness can provide the path for this change. 

Change your mind - Change your life