Too many times to count do we find ourselves repeating established habits. If we’re lucky, these habits are actually healthy and/or productive to a happy lifestyle. For example: jogging in the morning, abstaining from sweets in the afternoon, or doing the dishes after every meal are all admirable habits we would like to find in ourselves. However more often than not, those of us that don’t jog in the morning, that do eat a package of cookies after lunch, and don’t do the dishes right after each meal can’t seem to break these cycles to which we’ve grown accustomed.
A 2005 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that our brains remember the ways in which we obtain “rewards”, or desired results. Every time we are faced with having to obtain a specific result, the brain defaults to the way we had done it before. Since our brains often sift through countless bits of information all day, it remembers these processes, or habits, so it can focus on other incoming information. So long as the same reward is asked of us, we will habitually perform the same process in order to achieve the desirable end result.
For example, when people who jog in the morning hear their beeping alarm, the brain remembers the pleasurable release of hormones as a result of physical activity, and also remembers this release is obtained through waking up and going for a run. On the opposite spectrum, in a person who doesn’t do dishes after every meal the brain remembers the time that could be spent watching television, and remembers this is done by not doing the dishes.
However, the same MIT study found that these remembered processes could also be re-written. With patience and consistency, a person can in fact change their “old habits” for good. So don’t give up dish procrastinators of the world, you can clean them and still watch television.