Why You Keep Backsliding on Changing Your Habits
It’s essential to understand why backsliding happens in the first place.
There’s a concept called homeostasis, which refers to the set point at which your mind and body try to maintain equilibrium. This works in the same way as a thermostat in your house. You set the desired temperature, and your thermostat adjusts the heating and cooling to maintain the chosen temperature.
Except with your body, you don’t get to choose the set point. At least, not initially.
Homeostasis is the body’s mechanism to maximise survival. So if you’re struggling to make permanent changes in any area of your life, it’s undoubtedly because of homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the main pitfall to making habits stick.
The principle of homeostasis is that what happened in the past will work again in the future. For this reason, it’s opposed to change. So every time you make a change, positive or negative, your mind is battling homeostasis. The reptilian part of your brain is responsible for survival, and your survival is maximised by repeating familiar behaviours that don’t threaten your survival.
The behaviours that maximise your survival are those where you maximise comfort, like eating junk food and binge-watching a tv marathon. When you’re doing these activities, you’re not pushing yourself out of your comfort zone by doing something challenging or emotionally stimulating.
So anytime you’re creating positive habits in your life, these comfort zone activities are going to be pulling you back in. If you’ve been on track with eating healthily or a gym regime, your mind will try to persuade you to take breaks and engage in the comfort zone activities after a few weeks.
Homeostasis works oppositely as well. If you’re constantly pushing your comfort zone and challenging yourself, that will become your set point. If you engage in behaviours that don’t align with that, like binge-watching TV, homeostasis will kick in to re-establish the equilibrium of your set point.
If you develop a strong work ethic, and then you take a short break, you’ll soon be thinking about getting back to work since that’s where your set point lies. So instead of being concerned about burning out, you’re concerned about becoming lazy if you take too long of a break.
If you’ve built up bad habits, your reptilian brain sees hard work and emotional labour as a threat to your survival. If you’ve built up good habits, your reptilian brain sees laziness as a threat to your survival. So once you develop good habits, homeostasis works in your favour rather than working against you.
Homeostasis occurs in every area of your life, and it ties in with your self-image. The amount of money you make, the relationships you get into, the amount of money you spend on purchases.
Homeostasis is a complex mechanism. If you earned less than your current salary, you’d be concerned about having to give up certain purchases. If you earned a lot more than your current salary, you’d be concerned with all the extra stress and pressure that comes with it.
Through your conditioned habits and beliefs, you’ve determined a set point that you feel will be most suitable.
Your set point can be changed; you just need to know the best strategies for making it happen, which I’ll discuss in the upcoming posts.
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