The primary question I am asked as a behaviour change coach is, ‘Why is change so challenging even when I know how much I will benefit? Why can’t I just stick with my healthy habits?’
If change were as simple as printing out a seven-day eating plan and joining the gym around the corner, we would all be doing it. We want to feel vital and energetic, but we would rather not deal with the emotional and physical dis-ease that comes from changing unhealthy habits.
So, if we know all this and it’s what we ultimately want, why is change so challenging, and how can we set ourselves up for success?
The key to successfully changing your habits and adopting a healthier lifestyle lies in our brain’s neuroplasticity. The incredible ability of our brain to rewire itself is essential for creating lasting changes in behaviour and thought patterns.
In this article, I will explore what neuroplasticity is and share some tips on how to increase it to support your habit change journey and finally become your MEGA healthy SELF.
To begin with, let’s look deeper into neuroplasticity and its role in habit formation.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganise and rewire itself as we go through life. This phenomenon allows us to learn, adapt, and change our habits.
So how does it work?
In simple terms, neuroplasticity involves the strengthening and weakening of connections between brain cells or neurons. This process alters existing synapses at the cellular level, creating entirely new neurons and neural networks.
When we repeatedly engage in certain behaviours or thoughts, the corresponding neural pathways in our brains become stronger, making those habits more ingrained. On the other hand, if we stop engaging in certain behaviours, the corresponding neural pathways weaken, making it easier to break those habits.
Understanding neuroplasticity is crucial because it shows us that our brains are not fixed. When we choose to grow beyond the comfort and familiarity of our predictable selves, we start altering and changing our brains. We can view the brain as a ‘muscle’ that can be exercised and strengthened through repetition and practice. And it can work for us or against us.
We have the power to shape our brains and create new habits that align with our goals and values and where we want to go – our MEGA SELF potential.
But how exactly does neuroplasticity relate to habit formation?
When we engage in a new behaviour or make a change in our lifestyle, such as adopting a healthier diet or exercising regularly, we are essentially rewiring our brains. As we consistently engage in these new behaviours, the corresponding neural pathways strengthen, making it easier and more natural for us to stick to these habits in the long term.
The challenge is that in the short term, it’s often much easier to revert to the old habit for several reasons, the greatest being that it feels familiar and usually requires less effort than the habit we are trying to move towards. And let’s be honest – we enjoy activities that require the least effort, but when we move beyond these comfort zones, we move towards what we ultimately seek.
The role of neuroplasticity in habit formation is empowering because it means that change is possible. It means that even if we’ve struggled to release unhealthy habits in the past, we can create new pathways in our brains and develop healthier habits. We can break free from the patterns that no longer serve us and cultivate new behaviours that contribute to our overall wellbeing.
So, if you’re wondering, “How do I change? How can I release unhealthy habits?” understanding neuroplasticity is the first step. By recognising the incredible potential of your brain to change and grow, you can embark on a journey of personal development and transformation.
Let’s delve into practical techniques and strategies that can help boost neuroplasticity. We’ll explore how setting clear goals, challenging limiting beliefs, practising mindfulness and visualisation, surrounding yourself with positive influences, and exercising your mind and body can enhance neuroplasticity.
Habits and the Brain: The Power of Change
Our habits have a profound impact on our daily lives. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, our habits dictate how we spend our time, what we eat, how we move our bodies, what we think and how we interact with others. It’s no wonder that changing our habits can be such a challenge – it’s as though without conscious awareness, we are just on automatic repetition.
To harness neuroplasticity, we need to understand our limiting beliefs and become more self-aware. By identifying our obstacles, we can start creating new pathways in our brains to go beyond the old patterns. Integral to the journey is gaining wisdom and a deeper understanding of self so that when we return to the old familiar patterns, we continue to gain insight and a better way of moving forward next time.
Here are seven practical techniques to boost neuroplasticity for habit change.
To increase neuroplasticity and support habit change, you must have a plan in place. Incorporating practical techniques into your daily routine strengthens your neural pathways and creates lasting change.
Step 1: Know where you are going and what you want to accomplish.
Take the time to understand your core values and how they relate to your daily behaviours. When your habits align with your values, it becomes easier to stick to them. Your path forward will be much easier when you allow yourself to be uncomfortable, knowing that what you are moving towards holds immense value.
Step 2: Set goals aligned with your vision and your why.
Setting clear and specific goals gives your brain something to work towards. Write down your goals and break them down into actionable steps that become your roadmap for success and help keep you motivated along the way.
Step 3: Understand your limiting beliefs and roadblocks.
Take a deep dive into the thoughts and beliefs that may be holding you back from making lasting changes. Identifying these obstacles and adopting a growth mindset allows you to embrace challenges and failures as necessary parts of the journey. By reframing your mindset, you can strengthen your neural pathways towards change.
Step 4: Use visualisation or meditation to rehearse and practice your new story and emotional signature.
Create a sense of self-awareness and self-control by visualising yourself successfully implementing new habits and experiencing the positive outcomes. Visualisation helps you practice the emotions of your future self. These practices help rewire your brain to adopt healthier habits and make them more natural and automatic.
Step 5: Surround yourself with positive influences.
The people you spend time with significantly impact your journey towards change. Seek out individuals who align with your core values and inspire and motivate you to grow. Surrounding yourself with positive influences will help reinforce your commitment to your goals and support your healthy change.
Step 6: Exercise your mind and body.
Engaging in physical exercise boosts the brain’s natural capacity for neuroplasticity. Studies have found that regular aerobic exercise increases the production of new neurons in the brain and enhances cognitive function. Incorporate regular exercise into your routine to support your habit change.
Step 7: Take committed action and stop procrastinating.
Remember, if you wait until you feel like doing something, you will never do it because staying in your comfort zone is easier. Act first – decide second – feel last. Motivation follows action and not the other way round. Focus on how you want to feel, then move in that direction. Put on your walking shoes, make that phone call, or book that appointment. Just do it.
Neuroplasticity is a strength-based approach focusing on our potential for change and growth – your MEGA SELF potential. Incorporating these steps into your daily routine can boost neuroplasticity and support your habit transformation. Take committed action, stop procrastinating, and don’t forget to reward yourself along the way.
Change is possible, and your brain has the power to create new, healthier habits for a fulfilling life.