When the New Year rolls around, resolutions always come right along with it. However, promising to lose weight, eating healthy, quitting a bad habit or any other New Year’s resolution is, as we all know, a lot easier said than done. With it only being a week into the New Year, some of those promises are already getting harder to keep. This is not, however, entirely our fault. There is, in fact, a biological reason as to why it is hard for people to break bad habits.
The reason that our worst habits seem the hardest to break is because they get wired into our brains. Dr. Nora Volkow claims that this happens because the brain fights against the power of an immediate reward, which makes bad habits stronger than good habits. For example, when chocolate and vegetables are being compared it is natural to reach for the chocolate first, because of its taste, while vegetables will help more in the long run.
Scientists, however, have come up with a plan that will help replace bad habits with good ones. Often people overestimate their ability to resist the temptations that constantly surround them, and this is one of the main factors that leads to bad habits. To prove this theory, professor Loran Nordgren preformed an experiment on people’s ability to stop smoking.
He tested heavy smokers on whether or not they could watch Coffee and Cigarettes, a movie that greatly demonstrates smoking without wanting to smoke. They tested their temptations by holding an unlit cigarette, keeping a pack on a near-by table, or leaving the pack in a different room. The test proved that people who held an unlit cigarette were more likely to smoke than those who were not holding one.
Bad habits do not just involve drugs. Another very common habit is snacking on junk foods. The purpose of setting a New Year’s resolution is to make yourself able to resist your own personal temptations. So, this New Year test yourself with something reasonable and something with which you truly struggle. For example, adding more exercise into your daily routine, cooking your own foods instead of buying fast food or even giving back to your community are all great examples of reasonable New Years resolutions. While your brain might make it harder to give up your hardest habits, that is no reason to give up the promise you made to yourself for this New Year.