We all have habits and behaviours that do not serve us. If we are able to understand how our brain works, and how habits are reinforced, we can then look at ways to change these habits.

Our Brain

Have you ever been hiking? The paths that we tend to take when we hike are usually quite clear and well-marked. When hiking, we don’t usually just go smashing through the long grass with no foreseeable route.

This is very similar to how our brain works. When we think or behave a certain way, our brain forms pathways for our neurons. When we continuously think or behave in that way, the pathways become well-defined. An example of this is if we have dessert after dinner a couple of nights a week. Over time, the neural pathways that link your thoughts of dinner and dessert will become stronger. Eventually it is an automatic behaviour to get up and get dessert – the hiking trail is now clear and even has some signs pointing you along the path. This is how habits are formed and reinforced.

Changing our ways – putting this into practice

The good news is that it is possible to change these neural pathways. Initially it will be very hard to not walk on the same pathway. Going to get dessert after dinner for the first night will be very challenging. Deciding to not have dessert, or to rather have a healthy fruit, will form a new pathway. Again, this is like trudging through the long grass on a hiking trail that is not yet defined. Walk it a couple of times, however, and you will start finding it easier to push through.

Visualisation and meditation are great ways to strengthen these pathways as well. When you are visualising your success, your neurons fire down the same pathways as if you were actually doing the action. Studies have found that golfers who have spent time visualising how to correctly swing their club have shown actual physical improvement in their game. Meditation also increases the ability to think creatively and in a flexible way. When we are avoiding bad habits, it is often necessary to replace them with good habits. Being able to come up with creative and flexible ways to avoid and replace habits will more likely lead to success.

It takes about 3 to 6 months to create a new habit and to follow through in an efficient way – depending on the individual and the chosen habit. Repetition is super important when forming habits as the neural pathway is reinforced every time the thought or behaviour takes place. Keep at it and work on your goals daily. Be persistent. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to a bad habit “just this once”. It is important to understand that if you slip up, the neural pathway that was fading away will now be reinforced and become active again.

Time to get real

So what is the habit that you want to change? Start creating new neural pathways. Walk the hard hiking trail until it becomes clear. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Train your brain and remember that you are in control.

Have a geat day.

Lots of light and love xx

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