CHANGE IS GOOD FOR THE BRAIN (SCIENCE SAYS SO!)
EMBRACE CHANGE There is no one-size-fits-all approach to change, and regardless of our relationship with it, change is inevitable. It can come as a big move, like a new city or career, or in the day-to-day moments, the small choices that create our lifestyle. The biggest key to successfully navigating change is trying to embrace it. When we resist change, we make the process more difficult. Often times, it is our inner voice that needs the most adjustment. The mind is powerful, but it is not set in stone. The first goal is to catch ourselves entering into a pattern of thinking that doesn’t serve us, like, “I can’t do anything right,” “I’m a failure,” or “This will never work.” We believe the thoughts are true, when they are simply a matter of opinion or perspective. One approach is to counter these thoughts with positive self-talk or affirmations. Instead of thinking, “I’m a failure,” make a list of all the times you achieved success. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do anything right,” think of all the times you did something kind or made a difference. (Then repeat. And repeat again.) This technique can also be applied to a regular change we dislike, but still must endure. Perhaps we dread winter. Our resistance does not stop winter from coming; it only forces us to suffer in the cold. Instead, imagine the comfort of a soft blanket, a warm mug of coffee, and the crackling of a fireplace. Life becomes more enjoyable when we embrace change.
The brain craves and requires change. Change re-wires our thinking and shifts our perspective. “Neuroplasticity” describes the brain’s ability to recover from trauma, repair itself, and create new connections after learning or having new experiences. It’s basically the brain’s ability to bounce back and grow. We all have patterns of thinking and behavior called “neural pathways.” Imagine a neural pathway like a literal path. At first, the path may be filled with obstacles; thorns, weeds, and branches stand in our way. But if we dare to walk the path once more, some of our obstacles have been trampled down or moved out of the way. The path becomes worn beneath our feet, and over time it may even become familiar. This is how new neural pathways are formed. Every time we repeat a thought or behavior, we strengthen a neural pathway – for better or for worse. That is why it is paramount that we repeatedly work toward thoughts that serve us, and engage in activities that support our personal growth and happiness. Many of us can tend to go through life on autopilot. The workday becomes routine. The weekend is filled with chores that did not get done during the week. The vacation days pile up, but we never take them, because we are just too busy to leave. It’s generally not that we don’t want change; we are just too stuck in a rut to see any way out. When it comes to changing our minds, we must dare to take another path. We may get stuck the weeds from time to time, but we are surely in for a beautiful adventure!
TIPS FOR INCREASING NEUROPLASTICITY: • Move your body – the hardest part is getting started; but once we engage in movement, our body begins to crave the endorphins, adrenaline, and dopamine boost! Start small with 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 20 minutes of movement. (Trick your brain into just getting started) • Try that new thing – learn a new language, try a new recipe, or take that new route (or mode of transportation) to work • Get out of the comfort zone – Get to know new people, attend a workout class, or book a vacation. This is where the magic happens.
CAUTION: CHANGES AHEAD
Fall 2021 / iloveinspired.com
Change can be unsettling. For some, that lack of control can trigger insecurity and fear of the unknown. We feel secure in our routine, even when we are unhappy with it. We would rather embrace the predicable dread, than the unpredictable potential for more. Change is hard, and often takes time. We rarely wake up to a completely different life one day. It generally starts with a decision, becomes a plan, and finally comes to fruition with action. When these actions are repeated daily, we eventually create lasting change. Where to start? Preparation is key. For example, if you want to start waking up two hours earlier, slowly adjust your schedule over time, waking up 15 minutes earlier every day until you reach your desired wake time. You are most likely not going to notice the