The more routine a behavior becomes, the less we are aware of it. This is great for things like taking a shower, driving to the grocery store, and tying our shoes. This ‘routine’ frees up brain space for other things, but there is a trade-off; we become less aware of it. For instance, there are occasional mornings when I drive from home and wonder if I closed the garage door. The open garage door actually happened to us several years ago. We were leaving on a vacation to the pines of northern Arizona, and about an hour into the trip, I was struck by a thought-did I close the garage door? My wife couldn’t remember, and, not wanting to turn around a go back, I was going to ignore the feeling in my gut that I had left it open. But I didn’t, and very fortunate. I did leave the garage door open, and it would have stayed that way for a week for all the world to see-and take. Habits are good on one hand, but they can betray you too. Bad habits can be difficult to break, especially when they are on auto pilot. The good news is that new research techniques are allowing neuroscientists to decode the neural mechanisms-the brain regions and connections responsible for creating and maintaining our routines. The research suggests that it may be entirely possible to rewire our brain to control habits or change them, both good and bad. Deepak Chopra says we can as does Ekhart Tolle. There is an article on this very subject in the June 2014 issue of Scientific American. Coming from an exercise background, I’m hoping that we do indeed find a way to change or build new positive habits such as exercise activity. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, everyone knows the many benefits of physical activity. However, the 80% of Americans seem to have established the habit of not exercising. My mission is to change that habit.
Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.