In Alaska, there are two seasons – winter and July. When the weather gets warm in the summer, the snow melts and the dirt becomes muddy.

Cars drive in the mud and create long ruts.

There’s a sign that reads “choose your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for the next 60 miles.”

Ruts show up in our life too. Thinking the same thoughts, doing the same things. Experiencing the same problems. It’s like we are hopelessly entrenched in a muddy road.

This happens because our brain can create ruts. This happens when we think a thought. It fires along a neural pathway. Think that thought over and over again and it actually becomes more efficient to send the same message along that pathway.

That’s why thinking new thoughts or doing something for the first time can be awkward. It might be the first time riding a bike, driving a car, ordering something online or creating a new dish. They were all awkward. Mistakes probably happened. But eventually you got the hang of it.

The saying “practice makes perfect” makes sense now right?

Thinking the same thought or doing the same thing over and over again eventually makes it effortless. Repetitions forms ruts.

This can also happen when we do things that do not serve us.

  • Eat away depressed feelings with a sugary treat.
  • Choose to watch Netflix instead of exercise.
  • Stay inside because it’s “too cold” or “too hot”.
  • Get fast food because it’s easier than cooking.

Every time we choose something easy, comforting or enjoyable, it release a chemical in our brain – dopamine.

Dopamine is something that can get us addicted to any behavior. Gaming apps literally design games to give you mini wins or bonuses to trigger dopamine (ohh, look I won) so you get addicted to playing their game. Casino games do the same!

Food manufacturers add just enough sugar, salt and fat to make their food product taste good so that you buy it every time you go shopping. That’s the danger of processed foods!

And Netflix knows how to drop story plot twists in the final 10-20 minutes so that your dopamine is flowing and you have to see what happens in the next episode.

Dopamine basically signals our brain that what we did was good and we should do it again. Repeat it over and over and you have rut in your brain that is easy to repeat.

What about you? What are your ruts?

For some, it’s about food. I’ve been talking with some clients who feel like they have a rut around food. And it goes as far back as they can remember.

When they cried, they got a bottle or snacks.

When they fell down, they got a band aid and ice cream.

When they had a terrible break up, they came home to brownies.

Over time, they built a neural pathway that if they are sad, hurt or angry, they needed to comfort themselves with food. Now eating is a built-in response to most of life’s stress.

So, how can we get out of a rut.

You are doing it every single day but getting to the gym and making a healthy eating choice. You’re building new, healthier ruts.

When you get stressed….go to the gym to release it.

When you want to stress eat….go for a walk first to calm down.

When you’re in pain….phone a friend from your FitFam to talk about it.

Creating new ruts that serve you will help break old ones that do not.

Just like the folks in Alaska in July, choose your ruts wisely, you’re going to be in them for the next 60 miles.

Have a great day FitFam!!