“Change before you have to”
When you hear the term Neuroplasticity or Brain Plasticity the first thing that pops into your head is an image of something plastic.
While there’s no plastic involved but the process is like plastic. Just like plastic that can change its shape under certain circumstance, your brain too has the ability to mould itself as you will.
In laymen terms, Neuroplasticity is the change in how the nerves work. It’s the ability of the brain to change its functions and properties.
This change could be brought about by a behavioral change, environmental change, change in thoughts and emotions and also a change due to any physical injury.
It’s widely believed that the brain’s development – right from the basic vision and sight to characters and traits – is constricted to a small time frame called the critical period, which is the early childhood period.
But recent studies have challenged this concept and the fact that the brain does change every time you see or learn something new is indicative of the fact that it can change even the deepest traumas and the oldest habits.
Your brain changes every time you read any new information, which it then processes and brings up later in a related situation.
Neuroplasticity isn’t an overnight thing. For the brain to change habits or bounce out of depression first you need to change the health of the brain.
A befitting analogy would be a cold turkey period after being a chain smoker. You want to gain weight after being a chain smoker for years but that won’t happen as soon as you quit.
You need to first remove the toxins and make the body healthy and capable of gaining weight. Then you can pump iron and eat right to get the shape you want.
Similarly, you need to strengthen the brain’s ability to change before you embark upon the change. And that you can do with a brain plasticity exercises.
How To Break Bad Habits And Create New Habits With Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is widely used in a lot of therapeutic exercises. Therapists and psychologists work with people going through anxiety disorders and depression to change their emotional and mental health through changing synapses.
Recognize potential bad habits – The first step to making a change is to understand that there is a problem. If you want to train your brain to get up early and workout then you need to understand that sleeping till noon is the habit you need to break.
Recognize the triggers – There are triggers associated with the way you feel and react. These triggers could be emotional, mental or physical.
People who self-harm will tell you that the triggers ‘force’ them to do it. They are in a depressive bleak state or they are angry at being bullied but can’t vent any other way so they harm themselves.
These triggers are real, if you want to change you have to know what’s working against you and how.
Plan out how you want to change – Like everything else changing habits through Neuroplasticity takes time, dedication and commitment. You need to tell your brain that this is what needs to change.
And then you need to tell your brain what the change is and show the brain how to change. And to do that you have to draw up a plan. If you want to get up early, set the alarm, pick out your workout gear, prep your breakfast and keep it in the fridge. These are little ways you are sending signals to your brain and creating a neural pathway for the new habit.
But that’s just the beginning. To actually make it happen, you need to do it, and not once or twice but repetitively. What you do repetitively becomes a habit, you might have heard of it. From the Neuroplasticity point of view too that is correct.
When neurons in the brain are fired together for a particular task, they get wired together for that task over and over again and hence associate with it. Think of it as two partners A and B. A and B are given a task together which they do in sync and do it effectively, they are given the same task again, each know what the other is going to do so they associate and do it and keep doing it as many times as you ask them to.
That’s the basis of how Neuroplasticity can help you change.
If you are wondering how long you need to practice this new habit for the brain to consider it normal, then it’s not 28 days but 66 days according to the European Journal of Social Psychology.
From bad habits to forgetting a traumatic and emotional incident, you can change the fundamentals of your brain if you try. And that’s no more a supposition but a fact.