The developing brain plays an important role in explaining why some people achieve better health results than others. Lifestyle habits during early childhood lay down neural pathway that tend to favor RATIONAL or EMOTIONAL dominance. Repetition strengthens these pathways resulting in lifestyle behaviors that are difficult to modify.
How would you answer the following question:
Assuming you really liked cookies, would you more likely choose: 2 cookies TODAY or 8 cookies in 1 WEEK?
When it come to one’s health status, those choosing 2 cookies TODAY (satisfying immediate gratification) are more prone to suffering health and weight problems. This decision blocks pathways to the rational mind that identifies rewards for delayed gratification.
Those choosing 2 cookies are more likely to:
“live for today because tomorrow may never come.”
Those willing to wait 1 week are more likely to believe:
“anything worth having is worth waiting for.”
Uncontrolled, repetitive reinforcement of immediate gratification results in ADDICTION. This becomes the dominant neural pathway controlling behavior and actions by overriding higher brain centers of rational thinking.
This is why health conditions such as diabetes (type ll), obesity and cardiovascular disease are so difficult to overcome. Short term goals (reduced blood sugar, 5 pound weight loss, improved blood pressure) do not provide enough benefit to the immediate gratification centers in the brain to support lifestyle changes necessary to achieve these goals. To make this problem worse, the rational brain begins revealing the MAGNITUDE of what it takes to correct these health imbalances. This overwhelms the individual causing a “shut down” of rational thinking. This vicious circle brings the individual back to a place where satisfying the ADDICTION for immediate gratification through destructive patterns of behavior becomes the ONLY GOAL.
How Can We Satisfy Delayed Gratification NEEDS Using Immediate Gratification WANTS?
We take a (delayed gratification) activity or event and attach an immediate gratification response to it. For example:
At the conclusion of the first day of exercise (the delayed gratification activity) one can recognize this feat as a source of IMMEDIATE ACCOMPLISHMENT AND CONTROL OVER BEHAVIOR (immediate gratification.) This would REPLACE the previous attitude regarding exercise as a laborious act of drudgery. Improved ATTITUDE reinforces the delayed gratification neural pathway which, in turn, motivates POSITIVE self action (exercise) over sedentary living.
This same concept can be applied to healthier eating. We satisfy delayed gratification NEEDS (healthier eating) by EXPERIENCING immediate gratification through discovering SELF CONTROL leading to improved SELF CONFIDENCE. This “new thinking” gradually begins to dominate future lifestyle decisions resulting in healthier outcomes.
Instead of ONLY “living for today,” we begin to appreciate our NEW TANGIBLE SUCCESSES and their contributions to an improved quality of life for TOMORROW.
This approach makes transitioning into a healthier, more BALANCED person ACHIEVABLE because BOTH brain centers’ (immediate and delayed) needs are met.