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New Year’s Resolutions

Overcoming addictive behaviors

By Scott Kiloby

Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, and many of them involve trying to break addictions. But according to, only 8 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions are successful. 8 percent! From stopping smoking to quitting drinking to cutting out sweets or foods that are high in fat, Americans love the idea of a fresh start on January 1st.

This begs the question: why aren’t we good at keeping these promises to ourselves? 

Science may have the answer. When we are addicted, the midbrain (where addiction resides) becomes more powerful than the prefrontal cortex (where we make rational decisions like New Year’s Resolutions). According to addiction specialist Dr. Gary Lange, Ph.D., LMFT, when the addictive craving arises, our prior commitment to stop an addictive behavior is invisible to us.

Does this mean that most of us are destined to fail at our New Year’s resolutions? The answer depends on how we look at quitting. When we use willpower or make a rational decision to stop a behavior, we are engaging only the prefrontal cortex part of the brain. But it’s the midbrain that is mostly responsible for addictive cravings. So it stands to reason that in order to beat that addiction, we need to be focused on methods that target the midbrain.

Thankfully, new approaches in addiction treatment are offering hope. As scientists are discovering the vital role the midbrain plays in addiction, they are working towards developing new medications that target that area of the brain. No such drugs have been developed, but the research is well on its way. 

But fighting addiction with drugs is only one solution. Mindfulness is emerging as a new and effective way to target the midbrain. Through mindfulness, people don’t try to think themselves out of addiction. Instead, they simply witness thoughts come and go in a non-judgmental way. They actually witness the midbrain in action without having to indulge in its every whim. This provides the opportunity to let go of addictive cravings as soon as they arise, and a better chance at keeping that resolution in the New Year.

Scott Kiloby is an author and international speaker on the subject of mindfulness. He founded the Kiloby Center for Recovery in Rancho Mirage which is the first exclusively mindfulness-based addiction, anxiety and depression treatment center in the United States. For more information visit (442) 666.8526.

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