Creating new habits may not be an easy process, but it doesn’t mean they’re unattainable if you have the right mindset.
Contrary to what most people think, your brain isn’t fixed. It has the ability to grow and expand throughout your lifetime due to brain plasticity.
When you know how to use your brain’s plasticity, you will be able to make your brain work for you. Dr. Michael Merzenich defines brain plasticity as the “the brain’s ability to change its anatomical, neurochemical, and functional performance status across the lifespan.”
Meaning, your brain can form new cells and neural connections and improve its capabilities in response to what you think and do.
When you were born, your brain was largely unformed and was designed to build new, neural pathways that support learning from experience.
It undergoes rapid development in the first few years of life, then slows down when you reach adulthood.
Failing to develop new neural pathways could result in a mental decline.
But, brain plasticity allows you to create new brain cells and neural connections regardless of your age when you do these three things:
– learning something new;
– having new experiences;
– keeping your brain healthy;
Why Creating New Habits Is Hard:
Before we proceed to how you can rewire your brain, let’s take a look first to the reasons why creating new habits most often will fail.
The culprits are these two, motivation and willpower.
Why Motivation Won’t Work?
Many gurus say motivation is key. However, there’s a downside to this.
Motivation won’t work when you do certain things for the pleasure of having what you want and avoiding the things that you don’t want.
For example, when you are motivated to stay fit to appear fabulous in your swimsuit for the summer and avoid to look unfit. Whether or not you get what you want, your motivation may diminish with the passage of time.
Why Willpower Won’t Work?
When motivation fails, you may stick to willpower. But you’re a human being who doesn’t have an endless supply of willpower.
When vulnerability strikes, which they sometimes will, you won’t be able to take hold of your willpower. Doing the things that you don’t want to do just depletes your willpower.
This is the reason why new year’s resolution won’t work to some, despite the motivation and willpower.
The trick then lies in using the power of your subconscious mind. Neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Lipton says that your subconscious mind dictates 95% of your life and runs it on autopilot.
You’re able to do tasks even without thinking about it, like driving a car. This is how habits are formed.
Doing something often enough creates a habit, which is the activity that you do with a minimal effort and thought. Creating new habits enhances your brain’s plasticity.
How To To Increase Your Brain’s Plasticity:
1. Take small, baby steps.
While setting big goals look inspiring, the chances of achieving them lies in the small chunks of work that you do towards its attainment. Divide your big goals into small chunks, then do them.
Let’s say, your goal is to start walking 5 miles a day. Of course, you can’t do it right away. You have to start small.
You can begin by walking 5 minutes a day and gradually increase it as your brain adapts to this new habit.
Your mind has the habit of resisting change. But when you do it in small steps, your subconscious mind is able to accept it much readily.
2. Use triggers.
Triggers are what cause an event or situation to take place.
This means when you walk after a cup of coffee in the morning, your mind creates an association that triggers you to walk after you have your morning coffee.
Creating a visual trigger is helpful too. Putting a photo of a person taking a walk in your vision board encourages you to take your morning walk.
3. Make the necessary preparations.
Preparation enhances your chances of success. In our example of taking a walk, you need to have enough preparation for this goal.
Decide where you go, what time of day you’re doing it, how many minutes to do it, and if you’re taking it alone or with a buddy.
Prepare your music or audiobook. Make it as easy for you as possible to just get out and start walking.
4. Put your stuff in a convenient place.
Putting your stuff in a convenient place increases your chances of success. Put your walking shoes, socks, face towel, water bottle, keys, and other things you want to bring in one convenient place. Having everything ready makes it easier for you to do it.
5. Make it fun.
Make your new habit fun and exciting. If you choose to be alone, you can listen to music or podcast, or simply enjoy the sight and sounds of nature.
But if you want a companion, you can take your dog or ask someone who shares the same goal as you. Increasing the fun of doing it decreases the chances of your brain to resist.
Again, there are a lot of ways that you can enhance your brain’s plasticity aside from the above example.
You can learn a new language, do physical exercise, try art, or meditate. Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to keep your brain constantly healthy.
Have a diet that is rich in brain healthy nutrients to keep your brain functioning properly. Whatever your goals in life are, you can create new, healthy habits around them by following the steps above and enhancing your brain’s plasticity.