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How habits connect to the brain’s reward center.

“Simply put, knowledge and motivation are essential, but they aren’t enough.”

With any habit or behavior, at some point, that habit was connected with the brain’s reward center.

Just learning a new behavior isn’t quite enough to compete with previously well laid pathways in the brain. Simply put, knowledge and motivation are essential, but they aren’t enough.

The new information comes into our brain’s processing center and the brain immediately recognizes what is unfamiliar. In fact, depending on how regulated we are to begin with, the news can activate the fight or flight center of the brain. If you aren’t very regulated to begin with, you may experience traditional symptoms of anxiety, including fear, threat, or dread, along with physical sensations of racing heartbeat, increased respiration, or sweating. From that, you might feel flooded with negative thoughts and emotions. This can occur with even just the thought of change, as well as with actual change itself. If you are more regulated to begin with, these responses may be less extreme. For many, though, the news of change brings about some form of stress response and is perceived as a negative experience.

If we are healthy and well-regulated, we can then put that change into context and perceive it as less threatening and more exciting.

Knowing this chain of reactions takes the blame out of people’s reluctance to change. Despite the best of intentions, news of change can cause immediate negative impact before we even have a chance to re-frame the news into something more positive. Change often brings up the mind’s negative bias, latching onto worst case scenarios like lint to duct tape. That’s why growth and progress, and the resulting resiliency and victory, can feel like swimming upstream.

But don’t lose heart. Neuroscientists have come up with some nifty brain hacks that can encourage a more positive response to change. These hacks will not only help you to get through changes that you desire, but they will also help you to get through changes that you don’t have a choice in as well.

We will be discussing these brain hacks in several of our future blogs, so stay connected!