But how do we get beyond them? How do we break through the bad habits of life and create something new?
I propose that the best way to get past bad habits is to form strong, healthy good habits. And we do that in the brain by using positive actions.
By positive actions I mean doing things that add to life that leave us feeling happy, fulfilled, accomplished, hopeful, and optimistic. Most of the plans out there (diets are a great example) are based on negative action steps. Take away this food or that food, deny yourself this and be strong to overcome temptation. That's a popular method not just in diets but in many other aspects in life as well. However, it never works.
Now think about how you could change your diet by putting in lots of the "good" stuff that replaces the bad stuff. You get beyond the aspect of denial and while doing something positive for yourself you also get fed. You get your cake AND eat it too. We achieve this through what we call addition before subtraction.
The brain loves this. The positive actions stimulate an area called the Basal Ganglia which help with motivation. When you do something that creates a sense of joy, you release dopamine that keeps your attention on that joy and establishes a pathway that supports that action. Keep moving and doing things that cause more dopamine release and you continue to create neural circuitry that supports those actions.
Feed the brain with a steady stream of dopamine and the basal ganglia work through their internal network, which is expansive, to literally work on creating brain pathways that support good habits. Suddenly, the "bad" habits begin to fall away and you're left feeling positive now only about your new habits, but the end results they provide.