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We don’t only make resolutions after New Year’s Eve. After January we also tend to make some resolutions, to start drinking less, for example. But how do you make your brain cooperate when it comes to realizing these great plans?
We would like nothing more than to control our actions. But why can that be so difficult?
Waking up in the morning, we can be convinced that we won’t drink that night and grab a carrot instead of eating a bag of candy. But as the evening approaches, the wine gets uncorked and the bag of candy gets opened..
Why is it so hard to drink less on a regular basis?
Our impulses, desires, and habits are focused on a certain part of our brain called the nucleus accumbens. It is a part of the lymbic system, also referred to as our emotional brain.
That is also the place where so-called ‘happiness substance‘ is formed. In fact, the brain of someone who drinks regularly desires alcohol and will produce less happiness substance from other things that could potentially make you happy as well. That’s why it’s so hard to stop drinking so much.
Drinking less and other good habits, how do you stick to them?
This part of our brains acts lightning fast. All it takes is the sight of a serving tray with a glass of beer on top at a party, and your mouth starts watering and your hand is suddenly holding the glass.
It’s a good thing that we humans are more than powerless victims of our urges, fortunately we have a cockpit as well. That cockpit is called the ‘prefrontal cortex’, which allows us to take control of our actions. So, speaking of habits: the prefrontal cortex needs to address the lymbic system and tell it: no, don’t do it, have a glass of water instead, drink less, sit on your hands or eat an apple.
The prefrontal cortex would be happy to aid you in your desire to drink less, however, it’s an excruciatingly slow organ. The part of our brain that allows us to choose, decide, and to take control is always playing catch-up with our impulses.
How can you help the prefrontal cortex to take back control over your impulses and urges? One of the answers is: TIME.
So do you want to drink less and stick to it? The next time you’re heading towards the fridge, try to distract yourself. COUNT TO TEN!