The Biology of habits

Why do people find it so hard to change even when they know it’s good for them? There are some important biological reasons for this.

First, even bad habits are rewarding: The brain values efficiency and when something becomes habituated, the brain can go on autopilot, allowing it to significantly reduce its expenditure of energy. As a way of encouraging the person to habituate most things in life, the brain is de- signed to reward habituation, sameness, and routine by giving a burst of feel-good chemicals. The familiar feels good, even if it is obviously bad for you. This is why it is so difficult to stop smoking. It is not the physical addiction to the nicotine that has proven hardest to overcome, it is the habit of the behavior of smoking that makes it so hard to kick.

To the brain anything outside of the ordinary or new—aka an error—serves as an alert that something is wrong and action must be taken to avoid this new thing. This is why change is inherently hard. Although we know that it is required for what we want to occur, our brain fights us because it sees the new experiences as a threat causing anxiety and fear in an attempt at stopping us from moving forward.

Add to that the fact that our brain rewards us for avoiding a threat. When we back down from a confrontation, a threat has been diverted, or something we find scary (like giving a presentation) comes to an end, we feel a rush of dopamine—a sense of relief—that rewards us for keeping ourselves safe. For that reason, when we face the fears of change our brains are trying their best to get us to give in to the desire for relief—to make the threat go away—to stop the change from coming.

Obviously, most humans do not live in a perilous environment in which we are threatened to the point of actual survival anymore. However, we’re still stuck with the brains we have evolved to have, including their programming. But, the good news is that hypnotic techniques give us the ability to stop the automatic reactions and take control of our lives.

It’s also a relief to recognise the patterns and realise that there is nothing inherently wrong with you. It’s simply faulty programming which, just like a piece of corrupt software, through hypnosis can be uninstalled and replaced. Hypnosis quickly and effectively disrupts and eliminates the patterns that keep you stuck and has a 93% success rate.

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