Kate Olson, CPC, CHt, is a Life Coach, Integrative Master Hypnotherapist, EFT & NLP Master Practitioner & Trainer and Reiki Master located in Seattle, at Northern Lights Life Coaching www.northernlightscoaching.net & Embrace Change Hypnosis & NLP www.embracechangehypnosis.com. Kate offers workshops & classes, as well as, individual and group coaching. Her emphasis is on assisting clients in finding Path, Purpose and Peace. Kate focuses on integration of mind, body, spirit wellness. It is her mission to help clients find joy through connection, creative expression and embracing change. She is passionate about creativity, travel, personal growth and enjoying life. She has two other wellness-related businesses Salt Works Pods, offering Salt Therapy and Total Wellness Products. offering natural healing products. All four businesses operate as Dba's under Total Well Resources, LLC. Kate is a speaker, author and retreat facilitator. She is also a radio show host on Contact Talk Radio, www.ctrnetwork.com/embracechange hosting "Embrace Change with Kate ".
We are by nature creatures of habit. Habit as defined by the dictionary is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”, and forming a rote and ritual pattern of behavior is part of our learning and development process and how our brain works in all of our learning processes. Neural pathways are formed by repeated behavior. After enough repetitions an action or behavior becomes natural and given the same stimuli, we perform that act or behavior without even thinking about it. It simply seems like the right, natural and correct thing to do. Habits have gotten a bad rap and sometimes we think of them only in the negative sense because so many of them are formed without intention, starting when we are so young that we don’t even realize we are making a choice. When you are a baby and you feel hungry you naturally cry, signaling distress and discomfort. You don’t think about it, you just do it. However, it doesn’t take long before you learn that crying gets a favorable response (in most cases) from your caretaker and results in you being fed and those uncomfortable feelings being relieved. You learn that crying results in a reward or favorable response so crying becomes a habit whenever you feel uncomfortable, a need or a want. This makes habits well-rooted in our behavior and often difficult to change, however, the good news is we can just as easily cultivate good habits as we can bad habits.
According to Neuroscience, there is an area of the brain that deals with the formation of habits and as I mentioned that involves forming new neural pathways. Research has determined that it takes about three weeks to form a new habit. (Sharon Eakes, The Systems Thinker, www.thesystemsthinker.com) if we repeat a behavior consistently over a period of three weeks it forms a new neural pathway or circuit in the brain and becomes an unconscious response and what we call a “habit”. This is really good news as it gives us evidence that it is not necessary to spend a lot of time fighting or trying to change “old habits” which are no longer serving us, but that we simply need to form a new “more positive and desirable” habit. By doing it repeatedly for about three weeks, that newer, stronger neural pathway will replace the old one. This is also a natural part of our learning process and we do it on a regular basis as we are growing up without thinking about it consciously.
I mentioned that a baby learns to cry when they are hungry to communicate need and discomfort. Over time this becomes a habit whenever the baby feels discomfort, need or want. As the child grows and develops other ways of communicating this feeling and state develop. The crying behavior becomes undesirable, unacceptable or annoying and the child learns a new response to communicate discomfort, need or want. They don’t consciously think about this in most cases, but the feedback they are getting stops working in a rewarding and positive way and they learn that other behaviors are more effective and as they start repeating those more acceptable and effective behaviors, in a short time they learn that asking for food verbally is working better and it becomes the new habit when they feel hungry. Any parent who has ever tried to force a child to stop crying will be able to tell you just how daunting a task that is. However, giving the child a new behavior to perform and practice when they experience certain feelings works marvelously well.
“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts,
temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.” --- Aristotle
While many habits are formed without conscious intention, it is also possible to form new habits by intentionally repeating a specific action or behavior over and over again until it forms that new neural pathway and becomes a habit. There are some tips that are very helpful in forming new habits:
The very best discovery that has been validated by recent studies is that “you can teach an old dog new tricks” and it is possible to form new neural pathways throughout our lives. This is called neuroplasticity and tells us that we can form new habits through out our lives and the more we do so, the healthier our brains will be and stay as we age. We never become to old to change and new desirable habits that serve our current needs and goals can be cultivated throughout our lives.
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This guest blog will feature contributions from experts & other advocates on topics that speak to integration mind, body & spirit wellness.