Trouble Making Healthy Habits Stick? Why Guilt Doesn’t Work, and How to Succeed

Willpower

Lately I’ve been doing some reading on habits and willpower: no matter what our goals are, most people struggle with doing what you really want long term or what aligns with your goals and values (often thought of as ‘should’), vs. things that grab our attention in the moment (and often with the excuse of ‘being good to ourselves’ or ‘living in the moment’).

Instead of seeing the situation like a case of your ‘good’ self fighting your ‘bad’ self, realise that we are WIRED to take care of ourselves and work toward future things (ensuring survival)..AT THE SAME TIME as we are also wired for instant gratification.

So it’s not about ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ so much as about what is best.

Also, our brain is not exactly honest: neuro-chemical things are going on when we want something, where our brain is convinced what we want in the moment will be satisfying, even when it won’t. Some people often mistake this ‘brain lie’ for the ‘truth’ about being authentic. But it’s not.

One way that humans are different from other animals is that we have a much bigger prefrontal cortex. That’s the area of our brain that can sort between what will ACTUALLY satisfy us/make us happy/meet our need, and instant satisfaction. When we are stressed or underslept, it has the effect of handicapping our prefrontal cortex. Our ability for willpower goes way down. Since we are a stressed culture, that’s a widespread phenomenon making us really susceptible to marketing..which of course is exploited fully in every way.

One way that humans are different from other animals is that we have a much bigger pre-frontal cortex. That’s the area of our brain that can sort between what will ACTUALLY satisfy us/make us happy/meet our need, and instant satisfaction. When we are stressed or under-slept, it has the effect of handicapping our pre-frontal cortex. Our ability for willpower goes way down. Since we are a stressed culture, that’s a widespread phenomenon making us really susceptible to marketing..which of course is exploited fully in every way.

Being authentic means using our pre-frontal cortex to make healthy decisions. Knowing what’s going on in your brain and how to help yourself use your best brain functioning to achieve the things that are important to you, can help you get control and get out of negative cycles like guilt.

Being authentic means using our pre-frontal cortex to make healthy decisions. Knowing what’s going on in your brain and how to help yourself use your best brain functioning to achieve the things that are important to you, can help you get control and get out of negative cycles like guilt…and the little tricks it plays on you that get in the way of things you want to do, like stick to a diet or take up a new healthy habit.

Link to Kelly McGonigal Video explaining how the brain, willpower and guilt work.
Link to Gretchen Rubin book, Better Than Before, book about successfully using your ‘habit type’ traits to be successful.

(c) Heather Sansom. You may share this article through social media, however reproduction without permission violates copyright law.
Heather is a coach, consultant and researcher in wellbeing and sport.
Info about life and wellbeing coaching: www.moveforwardnow.ca
More information is available at www.heathersansom.ca

 

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