Making habits that stick: understanding why your brain resists new habits and how to overcome it anyway

September 02, 2020

Making habits that stick: understanding why your brain resists new habits and how to overcome it anyway

Our routines are ever-changing - either for better or for worse 

In this blog post, we discuss the science behind why your brain freaks out when you’re in the process of creating a new habit, and most importantly, how to trick your brain and overcome it anyway!

What are habits?


Habits are the rituals and behaviours that we perform every day.

Some that may sound familiar to you are:

  • Planning your week
  • Drinking two litres of water
  • Going to bed at a reasonable hour
  • Showering

Some that may also sound familiar to you are:

  • Procrastinating
  • Skipping meals
  • Smoking
  • Nail biting

Unfortunately, the habits that we perform every day include both good and bad habits.

Why is it hard to learn new habits?

It all comes down to your brain!

Your current habits exist in your mind as Neurological Pathways (a shortcut created by your brain, so it can perform this habit faster, and easier), and they are incredibly hard to erase, or delete completely.

What’s even harder, is attempting to replace existing Neurological Pathways with new ones - Your brain doesn’t appreciate you making any renovations without permission!

Your brain can only handle one problem at a time, meaning your subconscious is in charge of tasks like brushing your teeth and showering. 

Have you ever driven somewhere on muscle memory alone? This is an example of your subconscious mind taking the wheel - your brain anticipates your habits for you!

When you try and incorporate new habits in your life, it’s much more than just carving new Neurological Pathways [We WISH it was that simple] - you not only have to restructure your environment to encourage these habits, but remove triggering items, and completely re-train your brain!

Learning a new habit takes persistence and self-confidence - You have to trick your brain into thinking this new habit is worth creating a Neurological Pathway for.

If you don’t believe in it, your brain won’t either.

How to make habits stick!

Your brain resists new habits because it doesn’t know what to expect and can’t anticipate a response for you. Although, new habits aren’t going to stick overnight - if you want to start cooking healthy meals instead of ordering takeout, you first need to do your research, which will take time.

People who suffer from anxiety enjoy re-watching movies they’ve seen before because they know what happens and they aren’t put in a situation where they can become vulnerable and anxious about what will happen - Your brains work in a similar [but far more complex] way, they’re anxious about the unknown and enjoy familiarity because they know it’s safe.

It’s important to be gentle with yourself throughout the process - Your brain WILL initially resist, and that’s okay! 

Ask yourself why you want to go through this process - Is it to become healthier? More productive? Will it allow you to spend more time with your family?

You need to keep your eyes on your end goal and ultimately understand why it’s worth retraining your brain. The more you do something, the easier it gets - The more you perform a task, the closer your brain comes to creating a Neurological Pathway.

Create a checklist to hold yourself accountable for performing these new tasks and don’t let your brain play mind games on you!

Not sure how to start?  Check out our previous blog post - 9 ways to create lifetime habits that will help you achieve your goals


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