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How habits are formed in the brain; The difference between habit and routine

Study guide

Every day we do many things out of habit, such as walking home or washing our hands when we have to think about what to do at each step. Inability to change the state of habitual work to conscious work can lead to addiction and Obsessive-compulsive disorder Be. In the following, we will explain the formation of habits in the brain with a research study, and then we will explain the differences between habits and routines.

What is the mechanism of habit formation in the brain?

Research in the field Neuroscience, Identifies the brain chemicals and neural pathways involved to switch between habitual behavior and conscious decision making. This study shows how habits control our behavior.

This study shows that brain circuits related to purposeful habits and tasks compete with each other in the orbitofrontal cortex (the decision-making part of the brain), and neurochemicals called endocannabinoids act as brakes on target work circuits that cause Hold hands and we act according to our habits.

Endocannabinoids are a group of chemicals that are naturally produced in the human body and other animals. Endocannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body and brain, and the endocannabinoid system is involved in many physiological processes such as appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.

The orbitofrontal cortex of the brain plays an important role in receiving and sending information for targeted tasks, and increasing the activity of neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex increases targeted tasks. When the activity of this area of ​​the brain decreases, purposeful tasks are disrupted and we rely on our habits.

So in a nutshell, when the orbitofrontal cortex relaxes, it takes on the habit of control.

The orbitofrontal cortex is an important part of the brain for transmitting information in purposeful tasks.

Endocannabinoids reduce neuronal activity, so researchers have hypothesized that endocannabinoids may calm or reduce the activity of the orbitofrontal cortex, thereby reducing the ability to perform purposeful tasks. In this study, they focused specifically on neurons from the orbitofrontal cortex to String body The dorsomedial striatum is stretched.

To test their hypothesis about the role of endocannabinoids, the researchers removed a special endocannabinoid receptor called type 1 cannabinoid in the orbital-cortical pathway to the striatum. Mice that did not have this receptor did not develop a habit. This indicates the important role of endocannabinoids and the path of the orbitofrontal cortex to the striatum.

Practical application of this research

Identifying the chemicals and neural pathways that influence habits in the brain may be able to find new treatments for patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder or addiction. This treatment can be medication or behavioral therapy. Of course, we still need more research.

What are habits and routines?

The formation of habits in the brain

According to Dr. Benjamin Gardner, a researcher at Kings University in London, “Habit works by creating a stimulus for behavior that is done with little or no conscious thought.” Habit is a kind of learning. By creating a habit, our brain frees the mind to do other things without thinking.

As children, we should be told to wash our hands after using the toilet. Children should focus on opening the faucet, rubbing and foaming the soap, and rinsing the hands. But adults do this subconsciously and can think of other things when doing the hand washing process.

Routine includes tasks that require more focus, study, and effort and require conscious thinking, such as cleaning the house or writing diaries. Routine is “things that are repeated regularly.”

Does conditioning lead to habit formation?

Some self-help books claim that habits are formed solely by rewarding specific behaviors. In behaviorism, these claims are based on research that teaches a laboratory animal, such as a mouse, to memorize a winding path in search of food. Although this form of learning, called operant conditioning, is effective for mice in a tortuous path, it is not applicable to humans in the real world because in real life we ​​are not trapped in cages and tortuous paths and can manage our behaviors.

What is motivation?

For years we thought that Sigmund Freud’s “principle of pleasure” was the basis of human motivation. He believed that behavior arises from the desire to achieve pleasure and avoid suffering. Behaviorists like Beef Skinner They also believed that reinforcement and punishment lead to conditional behavior.

But today we know that motivation is not created by pleasure and suffering, but neurologically it is the desire to escape from suffering and unhappiness. All human behavior, even the desire to do something pleasurable, is aroused by suffering. This is called a homeostatic response.

Through discomfort, our brain forces the body to do what the brain wants it to do. When we feel cold, we wear warm clothes and when we are hungry, we eat. Does feeling warm or eating make you happy? Yes. But this good feeling is created when we are forced to do something with an unpleasant feeling that motivates us to take action.

The same is true of mental illness. When we feel lonely, bored, or hesitant, we take action to relieve our mental discomfort. For example, we go to a friend’s meeting to get rid of loneliness, or when we are bored, we watch a program on TV because we want to escape from these unpleasant feelings.

What is the difference between a habit and a routine?

If suffering and unhappiness motivate all behaviors, habits and routines must follow a rule. How and when we feel uncomfortable doing or not doing something is essential to understanding the difference between habit and routine.

Things like washing clothes are annoying to us and we keep thinking about them until the unpleasant feeling of doing them becomes annoying. But if a magical fairy appears and tells you that she washes and irons clothes, you will happily spend the rest of your day. The brain has such a magical fairy inside. This magic fairy is “postponing things to the future.”

When we postpone something, we do not have to do it for a while. This is a clear sign that it is routine.

Suppose you want to wash your hands and suddenly the water stops. If you’re used to it, doing it will make you feel weird or even uncomfortable. Even if a magical fairy appears and tells you that your hands are clean and you do not need to wash them, it can take days or even weeks to break the habit.

Or, for example, when for some reason, such as repairs in your building, the toilet water is cut off and you have to use the kitchen sink to wash your hands, even though you know the faucet does not work, you turn on the faucet every day out of habit. You know the faucet doesn’t work, but you still do it without thinking.

When we do not make a habit, we feel uncomfortable, just the opposite of routine. This is why many people confuse habit with routine. They expect the routine to be done effortlessly, while the only easy thing about the routine is to get away with it. We easily forget about tedious tasks such as washing clothes, because washing clothes is routine and requires effort.

Therefore, in short, we can say:

  • “Habit” is behavior that is done without thought or with little thought, and “routine” is a set of things that are done regularly.
  • Only certain behaviors can become habitual.
  • We must first make routines that can become a habit.
  • Routine is not done as a subconscious habit, so we must take the time to do it.
  • It becomes a habit if we can do the routine without thinking consciously or with little thought.
  • Hard work cannot be made a habit. Some tasks remain routine and can not be done easily and effortlessly.

Do you notice the difference between habits and routines in your life? How did you notice this difference? What is your method for turning a routine into a habit (if possible)?

Warning! This article is for educational purposes only and you need to consult your doctor or specialist to use it. more information





How habits are formed in the brain; The difference between habit and routine

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