In my last blog, I talked about habits and touched on how your brain changes when you start breaking these habits. The ability of your brain to change is called neuroplasticity, and there’s a lot more to it. Our posts often give tips for modifying behaviors to create healthier habits, including ways to save money, get more active, or eat healthier. If you’ve tried some of our tips, but struggled with making them stick, I hope today’s post will boost your motivation.
Every time you learn something new, your brain rewires itself. This neuroplasticity proves that you are not bound to your habits. No matter how difficult, with the right strategies and professional support, you can change your habits. In fact, from a neurological perspective, you can create new habits the same way you created your old ones.
Two Types of Neuroplasticity
Functional neuroplasticity creates new neural pathways in your brain, changing the way your nerve cells connect and communicate with each other. When you modify your habits over a period of time, older neural pathways (set by older habits) will fade, and newer neural pathways (created by newer habits) will strengthen.
Structural neuroplasticity occurs as a result of long-term learning and conditioning, which changes the structure of neural regions. These structural changes are slower, and because the brain regions are restructured—not just the connections within the region—studies have shown that actions, behaviors, and even personalities can change.
How to Maximize Your Brain Power to Change Habits
- The first step to changing habits is to understand your existing habitual patterns. You must understand mental cues and rewards before you can start to change your habits.
- Be more mindful when trying to change habits that require a lot of effort. Research has shown that mindfulness practices help to strengthen the pre-frontal cortex, the region of the brain that controls for rational thought and logical decision-making.
- Get curious and creative when you’re struggling. Changing habits is a challenging process for your mind and body. If a new habit isn’t working well for you, figure out why. Cultivate a child-like curiosity to determine what is and isn’t working. Then challenge yourself to be more creative in finding ways that would work better.
Knowing that your body and brain can change its nature should give you hope for building and strengthening your positive habits. The key to creating habits that foster wholesome living is to understand triggers and rewards, and consistently practice small modifications over time. If you feel like you’ve been struggling for too long, seek professional services to help you balance your budget, develop a weight loss plan, stop smoking, or address whatever habit (large or small) you’ve been working on. If you don’t know who to ask, contact your local Extension office for guidance.