You’ve heard it before: people generally don’t like change. The brain works in incredible ways to simplify things for us on a daily basis, making certain actions, activities, and thoughts so easy for us to do that they exist on a subconscious level. For example, the first time you ride a bike, you are engaging in multiple senses and thought processes. You are consciously present in the moment – for the first time ever you need to think about where to place your hands, feet, and body position over a bicycle, turn the wheels and balance the handle bars all at the same time while moving the bike forward with the pedals and without falling over. But, after you learn how to ride a bike, you no longer have to consciously be aware of these actions. Your brain has filed away the steps on how to ride a bike. Imagine if every time you rode a bike you had to re-learn the process. Seems almost silly, doesn’t it?
The brain does this same feat for us in countless ways on a daily basis. Your commute to work, how to boil water, how to swim, how to read, when to put on your seatbelt; these become actions you don’t need to pay attention to. There are endless activities of daily living that our brains simplify so that we can focus and pay attention to any new or exciting experiences – not on any old ones. Our brains are efficient. These actions become second nature, and the subconscious has us covered. I’ve been wearing contacts for over 10 years, and I no longer consciously think about putting my left contact into my left eye, and my right contact in my right eye. Over time, my brain has picked up this daily habit and I no longer have to consciously think about this. Isn’t this amazing? I can be thinking about something completely unrelated while I am putting in my contacts, let alone in the correct eye, and still manage to get it done effortlessly. This is amazing! What does this have to do with making lifestyle and dietary changes? It has everything to do with it!
We develop these same habits and instincts when it comes to our dietary choices and lifestyle choices. For some, drinking a glass of water with a meal might become second nature for them. Others, putting butter on toast every morning is the norm. As you read those examples, they might sound silly to you because eating toast every morning is not your habit. But trust me, you have your own dietary habits, too! Once we do something enough, our brain starts to file it away and form it into a habit in order to simplify things. While this really only becomes a problem when these habits are formed around unhealthy behaviors, that’s not the point of this topic. (Stay tuned for that post!)
Okay let’s apply this to a dietary behavior. If you consume oatmeal every morning for years, and all of the sudden you decide to switch to eggs instead, this is going to disrupt your cycle a little bit. For some this might mean they need to start reminding themselves to buy eggs in the store. They'll need to consciously choose eggs over oatmeal in the morning, even if they really want the oatmeal. They might need to learn how to cook eggs. And still yet, actually enjoy the eggs over the oatmeal. These are all new changes. These lifestyle shifts get even more complicated when there are other factors in the picture. Let’s continue with the oatmeal example. What if their spouse is a die-hard oatmeal fan? Their swap from oatmeal to eggs is going to be difficult, especially if their spouse is not supportive of this change, or maybe they are not as motivated to choosing the eggs over oatmeal. Another factor, what if this person has a hard time affording eggs compared to oats? Maybe they don’t have the kitchen equipment to make the eggs? To make matters even more complicated, this person is also fearful of change. This oatmeal and egg swap is just one example to explain that any change in a persons’ life, no matter how small or how large, is still a change that can disrupt everyday living. Sometimes even the tiniest of changes can seem so off that it prevents us from following through.
It’s important to be aware of and mindful of this “disruption” and be open minded to new changes. Here’s another example of this disruption. When Facebook changes slightly in the design that we are used to: we log on and all of the sudden things appear differently – thousands of people complain about it! It’s frustrating at first! But then…eventually, do you even remember the old way? Are you still trying to get used to the new way? Do you even care anymore? Not really. The new Facebook design has been reprogramed into your brain. This same concept applies to lifestyle changes. Will there be disruptions? Yes. Can you learn to live with it? Absolutely. A change in our awareness, a change in our habits, a change in our lifestyle – they are not exactly a bad thing. They're just changes!
It helps to remember that it is not necessarily the situation that is good or bad, rather your perception about it that makes it so.
*This post is the beginning of many more to come as I am creating something really special for you guys! Future topics include things like physical symptoms of lifestyle shifts, the power of patience, how to change habits, and many more. This project is being worked on and will take a long time to create. But I hope you enjoyed the first!