'Changing behaviour like war against most powerful system': expert explains psychology behind habits

The next time you are tough on yourself and feeling all defeated or devastated, remember this reality and the fact that you’re up against the world’s most powerful systems. Although it may seem unbeatable at times, it can be done with the right tools.

Myupchar July 31, 2020 14:29:42 IST
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'Changing behaviour like war against most powerful system': expert explains psychology behind habits

Most of the habits you might have today were created over time - some make you feel proud, some you wish you could change. From making new year’s resolutions to committing to change old “bad habits”, we try to tailor our habits to gain better control over our lives and our health in many ways. There’s clearly a lot that goes into this process.

We spoke to Dr Geetika Kapoor, Consultant School Psychologist at EdEssential, to understand why most of us find it difficult to change our habits.

How habits are formed

Our mind and body are automatic sorting machines that are programmed to find that perfect state of balance within. What happens when our system detects a virus has entered it? It automatically gets to work to produce antibodies to weed out the enemy that’s creating chaos. Similarly, our mind can also sense all types of internal and external imbalances and strives to create a systems to bring back balance.

The everyday routines we follow, consciously and unconsciously, are therefore nothing more than our body's way of maintaining that equilibrium. That cup of coffee we need every morning to get going, the posture we stand or sit in, the extra bite of food we take, the extra half an hour we end up sleeping on certain days - these are all actions that may defy the logic of our brilliant minds but are basically ways in which our body prompts us to go in a certain direction to achieve our goals.

“Why did I do it? I knew I should not have done it.” Such thoughts might cross our minds but, in that moment, it’s almost as if a hidden power takes over to step you away from falling into a vicious cycle - and this is how our bodies assert the need to maintain balance.

What makes it even more difficult to get rid of our habits

It’s the memory of all those actions that have helped our bodies to maintain this balance in the past. Our mind stores the memories of what worked last week, last year, last decade, and even during our childhood. These actions are automatic, spontaneous and without any conscious effort. Basically it’s the way in which our mind is at its task diligently in service of the body. Sorting experiences as helpful or not helpful, towards moment-to-moment survival: that’s the task that nature has assigned to our mind.

Research points to the fact that many organisms show this capacity of remembering from experience, even those species that do not have as developed neurological systems as humans have. Given how much more evolved our neurological system is, imagine how efficient and effective our minds are at ensuring that we not only survive but also pass on this automatic learning to the future generations.

The next time you are tough on yourself and feeling all defeated or devastated, remember this reality and the fact that you’re up against the world’s most powerful systems. Although it may seem unbeatable at times, it can be done with the right tools.

For more information, read our article on What our habits say about us.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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