We all have habits and ways of thinking we’d like to let go of. Through the phenomenon of neural plasticity, you can not only let go of those habits, but transform them into something positive. And the best part is, you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to do it. You can retrain your brain.
Within the past several years, scientists have discovered that the human brain is even more dynamic than every thought before. You can learn new ways of thinking and habits throughout your entire life.
Neuroplasticity is the “general umbrella term that refers to the brain’s ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function throughout life and in response to experience.”
Although the plasticity of your brain can decrease with age, it never completely goes away.
The ability of your brain to foster new patterns is utilized in learning new languages, cramming for the big exam, and even shifting personal perspectives.
This isn’t a quick process, however. Establishing new habits can take 10,000 repetitions and/or 3-6 months.
Ways to Retrain Your Brain
Supposedly by the time we turn 35, 90% of what we think, feel, and do is simply regurgitated from the past.
In order to change, we first must recognize that which no longer serves us. What are the unhelpful beliefs that you cling to? Maybe this consists of your relationship with food, your body, or some sort of coping mechanism.
According to Authenticity Associates, there are a few steps you can take to re-wire your mind:
Try and stay positive and focus on the positive. When you find yourself in a happy moment whether it’s a green light on the way to work or meeting up with a loved one, really absorb that moment. Consciously think about how grateful you are for it.
Additionally, make sure you have parts of the day that you look forward to, enjoy, and are solely for you. This will make the positivity come a bit easier.
Remind yourself of your goals. Who do you want to be? How do you want to feel and think? Take a moment everyday if you can to set these intentions and act accordingly.
Lastly, two things I live by: meditation and visualization,
Some believe that your brain cannot distinguish between reality and that which you visualize. This makes the practice of visualization even more significant.
See yourself engaging in positive coping mechanisms, thoughts, and actions. Picture your aforementioned goals coming to fruition. This practice is truly limitless so really let it all out.
Meditation is a concentrated time of mindfulness and awareness. It can be as simple as taking 5 minutes anytime, anywhere to sit and just focus on breath. Just be.
This allows your mind to slow down and absorb that which you are trying to change. Meditating acts as a sort of warm-up to take full advantage of neural plasticity.
Further Reading and Resources
There are tons of books, articles, and studies regarding neural plasticity. Check out some of these and don’t be afraid to do your own research:
- Neuroplasticity and Clinical Practice: Building Brain Power for Health
- What it Takes to Change Your Brain’s Patterns After Age 25
Cover image via The Bioneer