09/02/2014 12:40 pm ET Updated Nov 02, 2014

Why Is it So Hard to Change Your Habits?

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What exactly are habits, and why are they so hard to change?

To answer this question, let's turn to the field of neuroscience – the study of the human brain and its function – and see how it applies to our everyday lives.

Let's go back to the goal of losing weight and the desire to live a healthier lifestyle. That is your destination.

And you know, consciously, that in order to reach your destination, you need to change your daily habits – for example, you need to drink more water and less soda throughout the day.

The problem is, even though you know consciously that's what you should do, it's hard to do; because you're so used to drinking soda instead of water throughout the day.

(Substitute any habit you want to change here -- procrastinating when you know you should be taking action; overeating; smoking, etc. I'm using the desire to lose weight and get in shape as an example.)

What you've probably tried to do is to use your "willpower" -- which is essentially using your conscious mind to fight your subconscious habits.

And while you were probably able to make some changes for a short time...

After a while, it became easier to just give in and go back to your old habits.

This, incidentally, is why so many people who go on diets lose weight for a short time, then end up gaining it all back.

But what happened? Why wasn't your willpower or conscious effort strong enough to change your long-term behavior, when that's what you really wanted?

What happened is, your brain is performing a process that neuroscientists are now calling "The Habit Loop."

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