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How Habits Can be the Doorway to your Personality

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Each person has habits that are done daily, such as brushing teeth, fixing hair or frequent looking at the mirror to check one's appearance. Habits are behaviors or routines humans tend to do automatically or consciously. But not many people know that simple habits can reveal the deepest part of their personality. From walking to writing, habits are like symptoms of personas.

Scientists have discovered that habits are influenced by a brain region called basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are a collection of nuclei located on both sides of the thalamus, above the limbic system, below the cingulate gyrus, and within the temporal lobes. The most common neurotransmitter in the basal ganglia is glutamate, but, the inhibitory chemical is GABA or gamma-Aminobutyric acid. Basal ganglia are divided into several groups and each group plays a major role in brain functions, such as motor learning, executive abilities, behaviors, and emotions.

1. The caudate nucleus is responsible for reminding the brain that something is not right and should be corrected. The thoughts and processes closely related to suggestion, such as washing hands, locking the doors, and securing the house, happen in this group. Abnormalities in this group can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, aspects of schizophrenia, and perte d'auto-activation psychique or PAP syndrome, a condition associated with great loss of motivation.

2. The putamen handles in arranging and organizing automatic behaviors, such driving a car or riding a bicycle. Dysfunction in this group can cause symptoms associated with Tourette’s syndrome. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, TS is characterized by tics or repetitive, stereotyped involuntary movements and vocalizations. An estimated 200,000 Americans have the severe case of TS. The disorder usually begins between ages three to nine years old with symptoms worsening during teenage years. Symptoms usually subside in adulthood.

3. The globus pallidus located in the putamen receives the inputs from caudate and the putamen, and transmit these to substantia nigra.

4. The nucleus accumbens trades signals with the prefrontal cortex. The neurotransmitter dopamine increases the messages trade between the two brain areas.

5. The substantia nigra is involved with reward circuits and eye movements. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease begin in the death of neurons in this brain region.

Several neurodegenerative diseases can affect the basal ganglia including Parkinson’s disease presented by uncontrollable tremors, Huntington’s disease presented by memory loss and uncontrollable jerky movements, cerebral palsy presented by motor problems, and PAP presented with the lack of motivation to initiate things or plan for the future.

As long as the basal ganglia remain intact, habits remain for life. According to the researchers at Duke University, about 40 percent of what humans do is determined by habits, instead of decisions. It means that people can change their bad habits and replace them with new ones. However, some habits can return as if nothing changed because the pathways related to the original habits stay for life. So constant reminder and practice of new, good habits is the best method to remove the old, bad ones.

Certain habits are subjective, depending on who is interpreting it. Actions like walking, writing, and eating can tell a person’s personality, both good and bad sides.

- Walking style like in strolling can show a person’s intellectual and social skills. According to Patti Wood, an expert in body language, people who walk forward in quick strides are usually very productive and highly logical but can be cold and competitive. People who walk with chest forward, shoulder at the back, and head held high usually have high social skills, such as being charismatic and entertaining, with the tendency to hoard the limelight. People who walk with weight over their legs, instead of forward or backward, are more concerned with people than activities or tasks and personal life than their career, which also means they are more easily distracted than others.

- Handwriting style has been used to reveal personality ever since the days of Aristotle. Kathi McKnight, a graphologist, can detect at least 5,000 personality traits from written notes. People who write in large characters are mostly well-oriented but attention seekers, while people who write in small sizes are usually focused but shy. Writing style leaning to the right indicates friendly attitude and an impulsive behavior while leaning to the left indicates individuality and a reserved personality. The writing style that does not lean to any side usually means a logical trait. Light strokes normally point to adaptable and easy-going attitude, while heavy strokes can point to quick reaction and intense emotions.

- Eating habits are a part of food behavioral science, which means table etiquette reflects personality. Dr. Julia Hormes, a psychologist expert in food behavior, revealed interesting personality traits associated with eating habits. Fast eaters are usually impatient yet ambitious, while slow eaters are often known for being appreciative and in control. Adventurous eaters are obvious with their risky and thrill-seeking behaviors, but picky ones are clearly anxious and self-conscious. Eaters who prefer separating different foods on their plate are known to be very organized and detail-oriented.

[메디컬리포트=​Ralph Chen 기자]

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