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Get Stuck in the Right Rut

March 28, 2018

We've all felt stuck. Usually we tie the feeling of stuck to something uncomfortable, or too comfortable, something we want to change. But I wonder if it's possible to get stuck in the right rut. That's what we all want, right? To feel like we are consistently in the right place at the right time with the right attitude and awareness for the best possible thing to happen, right?


Habit Science


In a University of California - San Diego study, about how the brain makes and breaks a habit, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Christina Gremel, found


"that the brain's circuits for habitual and goal-directed action compete for control -- in the orbitofrontal cortex, a decision-making area of the brain -- and that neurochemicals called endocannabinoids allow for habit to take over, by acting as a sort of brake on the goal-directed circuit."


We all know what it's like to have a habit--an automated routine we don't have to think about. We've all gone somewhere on auto-pilot and realized we were supposed to be somewhere else that day. Some habits are really good to do repetitively--like getting up before dawn, brushing our teeth after we eat, hugging our loved ones, drinking water upon rising, moving our bodies on the daily. What's tricky is not getting lackadaisical with those habits. When we repeat something over and over that at first requires a significant amount of focus, it can become rote. 


Does Habit Lead to Boredom?


In a recent yoga lesson with my teacher, Scott Blossom, he pointed out how my home practice had changed over time and encouraged me to go back to the same routine and practice at half the speed in order to pay closer attention to how I move my body and where certain muscles have taken over, and others have fallen asleep. The routine of morning movement was there, but my practice lost it's ummph and my strength and inspiration were waining as a result. I felt bored with my pattern and resistant to paying attention like I did when I learned the prelude (yoga sequence) the first time.


This all makes me wonder how to get stuck in the rut of continuous improvement, the rut of growth. 


In Christina Gemel's acknowledgement of the value of habits, she points out that


"We need a balance between habitual and goal-directed actions. For everyday function, we need to be able to make routine actions quickly and efficiently, and habits serve this purpose...However, we also encounter changing circumstances, and need the capacity to 'break habits' and perform a goal-directed action based on updated information. When we can't, there can be devastating consequences."


What Do YOU Want?