Neuroplasticity: How to Efficiently Incorporate Positive Habits for Long Term Success
Why Understanding Neuroplasticty can help you break bad habits and start good ones.
Sometimes when you are trying to break bad habits and start new ones it can feel impossible and mentally difficult to persevere. When you understand the brain has been programmed to act a certain way and maintain certain thoughts, actions, and emotions it better helps you understand why you're going through this and what you can do to break the process.
The brain formulates effective patterns based on how you use your vessel in your daily life and this gets stronger over use. The brain does not know of these patterns or habits have a negative or positive effect on your life, just that this is what you prefer to do and it wants to make it as efficient as possible at doing, thinking, or feeling this way.
When you want to create a new habit or pattern this means you need to use a new piece of your brain that has not been utilized for a long time and it take times for these new neural links to form and be used efficiently. The key is to remain consistent and over time the brain with formulate new links around the habits you are trying to develop.
Learn about neuroplasticity and how and habits are formed in the previous blogs:
Neuroplasticity: What is Neuroplasticity and how The Brain Rewires and Regenerates
Neuroplasticity: Explaining Why Bad Habits are Hard to Break
What are positive habits?
Positive habits are ones that are good for your physical, mental and emotional health. They push your life into a positive direction and are something that are practiced continuously. Examples of good habits include: eating health, exercising, mediation, body-self care, reading, and more.
Three keys to forming positive habits?
1. Start Small
Much like new years resolutions people often think incorporating many changes at once can be a great answer for moving forward. However, incorporating all these changes can drastically increase stress on yourself and might feel overwhelming and cause you to give up all together. Instead pick one new habit you want to commit to daily and slowly add more as you are able to stay consistent with the first.
An example is how I changed in January 2022. I started off just trying to focus on going to the gym every day even if it was a "bad workout." The most important thing was getting in the habit of going and over time the workouts got better and the act of leaving to go to the gym took less mental effort. Then I started working on going to bed early and winding back my clock, which gave me more time to workout so this one built on the first change. Then I worked on my diet eating healthier foods while decreasing sugar and weekly coffee consumption and energy drinks. There are many more in the future but the key is to add them slowly and once you feel like you have control over the prior one.
2. Removing Obstacles
Some habits are hard to sustain or there could be a lot of excuses that make it harder to maintain or make time for. This can take some problem solving but can maximize your day for your habits. A great example could be having a hard time making it to the gym you want to go to. Perhaps there is another gym that has a shower on your way to work. This way instead of having to go further out of your way or plan around it in the evening you can go before your workday starts and arrive clean ensuring that it will fit in every day and be of least convenience to you. Another example could be eating healthier but not having the time to cook/prepare the proper meals. Subscribing to a meal delivery service or prepared meals that take less time could be a good solution. Try and figure out what will put more stress on you to maintain the habit and determine solutions to make it easier to incorporate.
New and positive habits are great but it is important to ensure a proper balance and mental state as you go through these changes. Otherwise you might get burned out and quit all together. Good examples include working out 6 days a week with weights and have a rest day or perhaps a light mobility day instead to give your body time to heal. With a proper diet giving yourself a cheat day every so often so that you don't eventually succumb to your urges and overeat instead. Knowing that you have a day planned where you can go easier makes those harder days better. The goal is to maintain the habit for your years or a lifetime and if a day off every so often allows you to maintain these positive habits it is well worth it.