“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” -Benjamin Franklin
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to rewire itself to make whatever neural connections it makes most often more efficient. Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are simply patterns of neural connections. So, when we engage in any behavior multiple times, for example, the same neurons are firing in the same pattern, and as the saying goes, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Over time and enough repetitions, these neural firing patterns become second nature and happen very quickly and efficiently. When this happens, we tend to refer to it as “muscle memory” or habit.
Humans are creatures of habit because our brains attempt to create as predictable and efficient a world for us as possible. Habits are ubiquitous and can be “good” or “bad”…that is, useful/not useful, productive/counterproductive. Depending on what articles you read, habits tend to take between 30-60 days to take hold solidly. Since neuroplasticity is simply a natural feature of our brains and habits are the inevitable result, it behooves us to take advantage of these facts by deliberately creating helpful and beneficial habits by intentionally and repeatedly engaging in the types of thoughts and behaviors we want.
Today, tune into your habits. Pay attention to things as simple as how you dry off after a shower (try doing it differently…it’s interesting) or how you brush your teeth. Pay attention, too, to the types of thoughts or perceptions you have that might be habitual. For example, notice the thoughts you have when the notion of going to work or certain people in your world comes to mind. Notice how easily and frequently the same types of thoughts come to you and how predictable the emotions that follow those thoughts are.
Also, think about ways you might like to change…things you might want to learn or improve; stuff you might like to reprioritize; or ways of perceiving, understanding, or interacting with the world you would like to be different. Then, make a deliberate effort to make your thoughts and behaviors match what you want them to be. It will be hard and might feel unnatural or disingenuous at the beginning, but stick with it for 30-60 days and notice how much more quickly and regularly those thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors tend to manifest themselves.