RETRAIN YOUR BRAIN FOR 2017
Welcome to #FACTUAL FRIDAY everyone – and welcome to a wonderful NEW YEAR brimming with promise and possibilities!
If you’re like me, you probably spent at least a little time during the last few weeks making a list of things you want to change, improve, eliminate or add in 2017. Yes, the all familiar New Year’s Resolutions. But, it’s not always easy to stick with our resolutions. Writing them down is easy. But, making them a part of our lives and incorporating them into our daily activity is not.
This is because we are creatures of habit. And, old habits are hard to break. You see, when we do something over and over, it becomes a part of our internal wiring. Our brain actually learns to think about and react to events in our lives in the same way. In other words, the way our brain works and thinks about things also becomes habit.
We’ve all heard the expression, “If you want things to be different, you have to do things differently.” But, before we can do things differently we have to think differently. And before we can do that, it’s helpful to understand how our brain works.
When we have a particular thought the brain creates a neural pathway from point A to point D. When we have the same thought again, the brain sends its neural impulse down the same pathway. And, when we have the same thought again, the brain again sends its neural impulse down the same pathway. This pathway essentially becomes a rut. And, once in a rut it’s hard to get out.
The good news is that we have the power to change the way our brain works and the way we think. It’s called NEUROPLASTICITY — a term that refers to the brain’s potential to reorganize itself by creating new neural pathways when faced with new stimuli. This means we can rewire our brain. Or, retrain our brain. And, this means we can change a bad habit or learn to think of an old situation in a whole new light.
For example, let’s say we’re on our way to work – or an important meeting – or our child’s soccer game. We’re driving and we come to a sudden standstill in traffic two miles from our destination. Our first reaction – by habit – is probably to veer down the old familiar negative path and think, “I don’t have time for this! I’m going to be late! I can’t believe this is happening to me again! I’m almost out of gas!” Now, what we need to realize is that every time we choose to think in this way, our brain reinforces that negative pathway. This particular pathway becomes a rut – a rut that becomes deeper and harder to stay out of each time we experience an event that triggers this same negative reaction.
In other words, this becomes our go-to reaction for every bump in the road – for both small and large disappointments, unexpected detours and every day obstacles.
But, what if the next time you find yourself stuck in traffic, you stop your initial reaction to throw your hands up in the air and rant and rave – and instead – think that maybe if traffic wasn’t backed up you might have been involved in a car accident. Or, maybe you would have been traveling too fast and would have been stopped by the police for speeding. Or, maybe your coffee would have spilled all over the paperwork you spent the entire week preparing. Or, maybe you would have arrived early to your destination where the building door was still locked and a skateboarder blasts by you splashing a big puddle of mud all over your new shoes.
Sounds ridiculous?? Maybe. But, each time you force yourself to think in a new way you are forcing your brain to create new pathways of thought. And before long, your go-to reaction in times of stress will be that of positive thought and action rather than negative thought and action.
And, the really good news is that we don’t have to wait for stressful or disappointing events to occur before we start retraining our brain. We can start today. By simply challenging our brain with new information it will begin to develop new ways of thinking.
So, why not try these FIVE SIMPLE TIPS to RETRAIN YOUR BRAIN for 2017:
- DO YOUR MORNING TASKS DIFFERENTLY. If you normally shower first and enjoy coffee after, try having coffee first then showering. If you make phone calls before you get dressed, get dressed first and then make your calls.
- TAKE A NEW ROUTE. If you take the same route to work each day – or to the grocery store – or to school – take a different route. Turn left instead of right. Take the “scenic route” instead of the short-cut. Travel through a new neighborhood rather than the same old one.
- CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE. If you walk in the morning, try walking in the afternoon instead. If you run errands in the afternoon, try running them in the morning. Change your pattern of working in the yard, taking out the trash or walking your dog.
- BEGIN YOUR DAY WITH A POSITIVE AFFIRMATION. “I am strong.” “Today is going to be a great day.” “I am grateful for my family.” “I am capable.” By doing this, you signal your brain to automatically think in a more positive and productive way.
- LEARN ONE NEW THING EACH DAY. Want to know how to say, “Thank you” in Swedish? Find out! Want to learn one new exercise to help strengthen your back? Do it! Want to find out the name of that tree in your neighbor’s yard? Look it up! Learning one new thing a day will keep your brain challenged and flexible.
The beauty of neuroplasticity and retraining our brain is that small, simple steps can lead to big changes in the quality of our thoughts and the effectiveness of our actions.
So, whether your resolution for 2017 is to be more positive, lose weight, learn a new language, go back to school or learn how to deep fry a turkey – these simple tips will get your brain moving in the right direction – and will allow you to turn your 2017 resolutions into reality.
As always, I offer my HEARTFELT THANKS to you for joining me today and I hope to see you next time. Until then, stay in GOOD HEALTH and . . .