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Habit, Mindfulness, and Simulation: Wiring Our Brains for Safety

      Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. These practices are technically defined as the choices deliberately made at some point, which transcend to a regular occurrence. A 2006 Duke University study found that more than 40% of actions performed daily were not actual decisions but rather habit. We react to external cues leading to these behaviors. Yet, we all know the mind is a powerful entity that can heal the body, help an individual attain enormous goals, and work through major problems. How do we as safety professionals tap into the infinite strength of the mind, reduce harmful habitual behavior, and apply that strength to safety practices? For many Alzheimer patients, habit is a powerful tool to allow them some sort of independence. The patients are kept on a schedule and have regimented therapy so on a daily basis they know things such as breakfast is at 8 in the morning every morning. They may not realize why they are doing what they are doing; they just know breakfast is at 8 every morning and will unconsciously begin cooking or making their way in the kitchen area at 8. To simplify this, think about ordering food at a fast food restaurant. If you order a drink without ice, then watch the person filling your drink. They have filled multiple cups with ice before yours, so your cup gets ice because of the habit of the motion of grabbing a cup, filling it with ice, and then putting it under the drink fountain.
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