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How to Retrain Your Brain for Success

How to Retrain Your Brain for Success

We all share one world, but we really live in different realities. The way you see the world and the way you understand it can be completely opposite to the person sitting next to you. I am not referring to someone seeing a blue elephant when they are actually looking at a chair. Your individual views and beliefs about the world were formed as you grew up, based on what you saw, heard, felt and experienced and this is what has given you the reality you find yourself living in now.

Are you happy with your reality? Did you know that by changing the way you view the world, you change the results you have in life? That is really what sets us all apart, our beliefs and most importantly, that is what sets the more successful apart from the less successful.

The good news is that your brain is able to change the way that is currently structured and how it responds to the world. What does this mean? It was thought for many years, that once the human brain had developed it stayed fixed and unchanged and that is the way it would be for life.  Ever heard of Neuroplasticity?

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This is something new for scientists too and there is still a lot of learning to do, but we do know a few things. Neuroplasticity tells us that our brains are continuously changing, forming and growing new neurons and connections. This means, that we can actually change the way our brain is wired, because of the way we are thinking for example.

So how do you retrain your brain for success then? There are different ways, depending on your objective, here are some suggestions to get you started

1. Develop a mindset geared for success

Recognize the thoughts that you want to change. You can’t change the way you think if you don’t know what you want to change. The easiest way to do this is to create awareness around your emotions. When you are feeling sad, fearful, anxious, helpless, etc; basically limiting emotions, stop and ask yourself, ‘What am I thinking that is making me feel this way?’.

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Hold that ‘thought’ and challenge it, is this fact or a belief?’ If it is a belief, ask yourself how this belief is serving you, it mostly likely isn’t. Then choose another perspective that you can take on that is more empowering.

Consistent effort to reinforce new beliefs. You need repetition to create another path (neural connection) that will override the one you currently have. How do you do this?

  • Affirmations – An affirmation is a positive sentence written in the present tense that you would repeat to yourself over and over again throughout the day. Take out a few slips of paper and write down your affirmation, eg: I am confident and I believe in myself.

Try to repeat these sentences to yourself in the morning and evening and even better, at intervals throughout the day. It will most likely seem unreal starting out; you will have a voice in the back of your mind telling you that this isn’t true. Don’t focus on the voice, but rather focus on imagining that you really do feel this way. After a month or so of doing this consistently, you will find that the new thought has most likely overridden the old one.

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  • Subliminal messages

These are messages that only your subconscious mind notices. Imagine watching an advert on TV; and an image flashes saying ‘buy now’. You won’t see this image, but you will feel a strong desire to buy the product. Big brands use them all the time, although it is much more controlled now.

You can buy subliminal programs that you run on your computer while you work. You can choose the affirmations you want to appear and so while you are working, your subconscious mind is receiving new affirmations. A tip with these programs is to not have more than 5 affirmations at a time, as this will reduce the effectiveness. Also do this for a month.

2. Brain training games

There are many brain training games out there, I personally love Lumosity, a fabulous online tool. You can improve your memory, intelligence and executive function, whatever you goal is, this program has it. If you don’t continue to reinforce these neural pathways, your brain starts to atrophy as you get older. Research has shown that there is proven benefits to playing these online games for 15 minutes a day. After 1 month, you will definitely feel the improved difference.  

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3. Meditation

Meditation has been around for centuries and unless you practice it regularly, you won’t really understand how powerful it is. Besides reducing stress and anxiety, studies have also shown us that the act of meditating actually changes your neurons as well. Mediation actually changes the size of the different regions in the brain. The more you meditate, the more focused you feel and be able to concentrate for longer periods.

Unless information is applied, it is useless. How are you going to use this information to your advantage? You only have one life, don’t settle for less or what others want you to do. Be proactive in creating the results you want and the life you want, you won’t get another chance to come back and do it all again! What are you waiting for?

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on November 15, 2019

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems, why?

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

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The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

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The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

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It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

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For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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