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As we move into the New Year, many of us find ourselves thinking about (and taking action on) the ways that we want to create positive changes in our lives. From getting into better shape to improving our finances, the New Year is often the most common time that we (as a society) choose to set new intentions, create new goals, and even commit to resolutions for our lives.
But, as studies have shown, most people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions after 4-6 weeks and fall back into old habits. However, that doesn’t have to be the case, and here’s why.
When we focus on consistently making 1% improvements in various aspects of our lives, at the end of the year, we’ll find ourselves in a different position than last year. The reason is that (as the book Atomic Habits by James Clear) points out, minor changes in our daily habits have a greater impact on the long term than we might assume. This has a lot to do with the way our brains are wired (or for that matter, get rewired).
To help you reprogram your brain to elevate your life by using the power of neuropsychology, here are 10 easy steps (and helpful books) that will make it easier to effectively create positive changes in your life, daily habits, and way of thinking.
Intention Setting Over Resolutions:
Ditch the traditional New Year’s resolutions and embrace intention setting. Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf, in her book Switch On Your Brain, explains how our thoughts shape our reality. By setting positive intentions, we direct our neural pathways toward constructive outcomes. Cultivate a growth mindset by focusing on what you want to achieve rather than what you want to avoid.
Daily Neural Stimulation:
In The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, the concept of neuroplasticity is explored—our brains’ ability to adapt and rewire. Incorporate daily activities that stimulate your mind, such as taking a different route to work. This simple change creates new neural connections, fostering adaptability and creativity.
Mindful Morning Rituals:
Drawing insights from The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, kickstart your day with a mindful routine. Engage in activities like meditation, gratitude journaling, or deep breathing exercises. These practices optimize your brain’s functioning, enhancing focus and emotional well-being throughout the day. The truth is – how you start your morning truly sets the tone for the rest of your day. By focusing on activities that feel good and help you get centered, you’ll feel more energized, have greater mental clarity, and have a sense of internal balance that enables you to more successfully handle whatever the day brings.
Neuroscience of Habit Formation:
Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit delves into how habits shape our lives. Identify habits that no longer serve you and replace them with positive alternatives. By understanding the neural loops that drive habits, you gain control over your actions, fostering personal growth.
Learning Something New Each Day:
Embrace a lifelong learning mindset. In Make It Stick, authors Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel explore effective learning techniques. Challenge yourself to acquire a new skill or knowledge daily. This not only enriches your life but also stimulates neural growth and cognitive flexibility. Remember – the key to creating a new habit is to link the habit with a positive reward, and to focus on doing it consistently.
Gratitude Rewires the Brain:
Neuroscientist Rick Hanson, in Hardwiring Happiness, emphasizes the transformative power of gratitude. Regularly express gratitude for the positive aspects of your life. This practice rewires your brain to focus on the good, fostering resilience and emotional well-being. On the subject of happiness, once you learn the “happiness hacks” (which are easy, effective ways to naturally stimulate production of the four happiness hormones – Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins), you’ll realize that the power to be happy each day truly is in your hands.
Tap into the science of visualization outlined in Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. Picture your desired future in vivid detail. This process activates the brain’s reticular activating system, aligning your focus with opportunities that lead to your envisioned reality. The power of visualization is so effective that my college psychology professor (who happened to also be the US Olympic Ski Jump Team’s Sports Psychologist) explained that he would regularly work with the athletes to help them utilize visualization techniques to train their bodies and subconscious minds before any competition. This essentially acts like a dress rehearsal for the mind, by preparing them to succeed, before actually taking physical action.
Digital Detox for Cognitive Renewal:
Drawing from the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, recognize the impact of constant digital exposure on your brain. Incorporate regular digital detoxes to rejuvenate cognitive function. Engage in activities that encourage in-person connections and deep thinking, fostering a healthier mental environment. To learn reasons why this process will make you happier, healthier, and more fulfilled, check out this digital detox guide on I&C.
Mindful Eating for Brain Health:
Neuroscientist Lisa Mosconi, in the book Brain Food, explores the link between nutrition and cognitive function. Adopt mindful eating practices (especially those that include healthy proteins and fats, and are high in antioxidants), focusing on nourishing your brain with nutrient-rich foods. A well-balanced diet directly influences cognitive abilities, contributing to a more vibrant and focused life. You’ll not only feel renewed energy and vitality, in addition to looking healthier and more beautiful (as it boosts your skin and hair health too), but you’ll also have more focus, clarity, and mental acumen.
Social Connection and Emotional Resilience:
In the book Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman explores the neuroscience of social interactions. Cultivate meaningful connections with others, as social bonds play a crucial role in emotional resilience. Engage in activities that strengthen your social network, promoting overall well-being.
Embarking on a neuroscience-inspired journey to reprogram your life requires commitment and consistency. By incorporating these science-backed practices into your daily routine, you’ll not only witness positive changes in your mindset but also experience a transformative shift in your overall well-being. Embrace the power of neuroplasticity and set the stage for a New Year filled with purpose, growth, and fulfillment.
For more inspiring ideas that will help you elevate your life and become your best self, check out the Personal Growth section on Inspirations & Celebrations.
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