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The Science of Habit: How to Change Your Behaviour

The Science of Habit: How to Change Your Behaviour

For the most part, January's fresh start inspires us to become better, smarter, fitter, and faster versions of ourselves. Whether it's to improve our physical or mental health, eat healthier, or spend less time on TikTok.

What is neuroplasticity?

The failure rate among us is almost 50%. Why? Because, as experts have pointed out, most of us do not engage in "self-directed neuroplasticity." What is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity, also known as neural plasticity, or brain plasticity, is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. It is when the brain is rewired to function in some way that differs from how it previously functioned

Self-directed neuroplasticity is distinct from experience-dependent neuroplasticity, a passive process in which we reinforce habits by repeatedly doing them unconsciously, whether they are good or bad.

Here’s how the habit loop works

  • Cue. A stimulus or trigger occurs to you. There are many other possibilities, such as being in a specific setting, smelling a specific scent, seeing a specific individual, or experiencing a specific emotional state.

  • Craving. The stimulus makes you yearn for a specific result that you find satisfying. You are inspired to take action by it.

  • Response. To achieve that goal, you engage in certain behaviours, ideas, or actions.

  • Reward. The result occurs, satisfying your craving, and you experience a sense of reward as a result. The joy or relief you feel strengthens the cue, making it even more effective at inducing craving the next time. It's an endless loop because of this.

Neuroplasticity and mental health

Can neuroplasticity help with our mental health? Well, yes and no. See, mental illnesses target the same area of the brain that is needed for plasticity. However, reprogramming, which sparks and supports brain growth, may have some impact on symptoms of anxiety and depression. There are clues that support the benefits of mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and brain stimulation. Doing the work is the hard part. It helps but it isn’t a cure. There’s a lot of proverbial heavy lifting here and it can be exhausting. In some cases, it takes a lifetime to rewire the brain.

How to reduce anxiety using neuroplasticity