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Young Adults and Addiction: The Benefits of Inpatient Care

For many young people, drug use and experimentation is a rite of passage of sorts. However, experimenting with drugs and alcohol is far from harmless, and can often result in lifelong...

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Out with the Old, In with the New

If you’re trying to change an existing habit, you have probably come up against some trouble. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s hard to avoid reaching for certain foods. If you’re trying to be happier, it’s hard to ignore that negative voice in your head.

It turns out that your brain is working against you when you try to change your routines. To make change easier, your mind seems to work better when you’re constantly building new habits instead of trying to fix old ones. There’s a fantastic article in this past Sunday’s New York Times that explores this concept and claims that continuously building on these new habits will not only make you more adaptable to change, but maybe even smarter and thinner!

Thinkers like best-selling author M.J. Ryan and Dawna Markova, Ph.D., believe that people’s minds operate in three planes of existence. There’s comfort, where people are happy and go about their routines; there’s stress, where people are overwhelmed by what they’re being asked to do; and then there’s stretch, where Ryan says your brain is doing something that is just different enough to learn and embrace change.

It’s in this stretch area that people exercise their minds and adapt to change better. It’s the reason why doctors tell people to learn new things to stave off Alzheimer’s in the later years, and in one study people who embraced change were actually better at losing weight.

To integrate this concept into your own change, like quitting smoking, think in terms of creating new habits to replace the old. Instead of stopping cold turkey, you should slowly replace that habit with another habit, like chewing gum or exercising.

If you’re struggling with a particular change, think about whether you’re trying to change an old habit or create a new one. Even if you’re not working on changing something in your life, you might do your brain some good and try to make little change every day. If you need some suggestions, don't forget to sign up for our Everyday Change email tips.

We want to hear from you. How do you prime your mind to be adaptable to changes every day? [The New York Times]

Posted: 5/7/08