Can You Really Re-Wire Your Brain?
I don’t know about you but I find the whole ‘New Year, New You’ stuff a bit irritating.
Am I really in that bad a place that I need a whole new me in order to get through the year? Ok, I’m not perfect, but a few minor tweaks might be more appropriate than a whole new me!
And anyway, this New Year stuff really doesn’t work. Only 8% of us actually succeed in our New Year’s Resolutions so although January might provide a good focus to take a look at ourselves the results aren’t likely to follow.
The good news is that we don’t have to wait for a new year to make changes to our lives. You see our brains are constantly re-wiring themselves, changing and developing every single day.
So every day is an opportunity to create that ‘new you’, or at least make some improvements on the current version!
Neuroscientists refer to our brain as being plastic. By this they mean that it is mouldable, that it can be re-moulded over and over again depending on our needs. Years ago we used to think that our brains were hardwired by the time we hit early adulthood. By then all the connections our brain needed were set and hardwired and could not be changed. Perhaps this is where the phrase ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ came from?
But with the advent of modern medicine and the brain scanners and imaging equipment that comes along with it that assumption has had to change.
We can now see the amazing ability of the brain changing in front of our eyes, in many different situations. From relatively simple studies looking at the effects of meditation on our brain (did you know that parts of the brain grow larger in those that regularly meditate improving our competency and skills?), to more complex examples when we look at the brains of those who have suffered from brain damage. There have been many examples of stroke patients who have suffered permanent damage to specific areas of their brain relating to speech or movement where another area of the brain has developed in order to take over these tasks that the damaged part of the brain can no longer do.
So maybe we can teach an old dog new tricks? Maybe we can upgrade our existing behaviours to be in line with what we want to achieve? Maybe we don’t have to be stuck with those behaviours we don’t like?
Which sounds great in theory but how on earth do we go about re-wiring our brain? Surely that’s a job for an expert?
To an extent, yes, that is after all why hypnotherapists go through a lot of training and ongoing supervision. But you’d be surprised how much you can do yourself. Think of it as like the wiring in your house – if you needed to get electricity to a new extension or the whole house needed re-wiring then yes, you’d have to call in the experts. But if you just wanted to rewire a plug or change a fuse then that is something you can do yourself with a bit knowledge and practise.
So how do you go about re-wiring your brain?
Think of the connections in your brain as being like a series of pathways. The pathways you go down regularly are well worn, easy to go down. They are your automatic ways of being.
But let’s say you wanted to do something differently, to create a new pathway that isn’t there. Firstly we need to know where that pathway is going, what is at the end of it and why it would be worth going down. It’s going to take some effort. There are no two ways about it, creating a new pathway requires energy and focus so we have to have a good enough reason to do it.
Think of yourself as being at a country park with lots of lovely easy paths to follow but you’ve seen something, a shiny exciting looking object that you want to get to on the other side of a field, with no pathway to get to it. If you’re going to traipse across that overgrown field it’s got to be worth it!
Once we know what our new pathway is going to be and where it is going to take us then we need to make it easy to go down. The first time we cross that field it’s going to take us lots of effort, there might be hidden obstacles in our way, brambles and hummocks that weren’t obvious before we started. But each time we go down that new pathway it gets easier, that pathway is clearer, we have worked out the best way around the obstacles or removed them altogether.
And whilst we’re busy going down our new pathway we are no longer going down the old pathway so that one starts to overgrow. That one starts to become difficult to go down and the new pathway becomes the easier one to go down. And once that path has been left derelict for some time the magic of neuroplasticity really kicks in. You see our brain doesn’t like to see its precious and limited resources go to waste so it takes all the materials used in that old pathway and it prunes them away, permanently removing that old pathway and re-using the materials to create new pathways elsewhere in the brain.
This is what is happening in your brain when you are forming new behaviours. So let’s say you wanted to be a fitter, healthier you, one that can run a 10k or go on a trekking holiday (your shiny object on the other side of the field), you know that you need to do something different to get there, maybe better eating habits (the new pathway you need to take in order to reach your goal). You might choose to start by eating a healthy lunch every day. But you don’t know what to eat or where you can buy healthy lunches (the obstacles on your path). So you do some research, decide it’s best to make your own lunches, make a meal plan, go shopping and resolve to make your lunch every day (the initial effort you need to put in).
To start with you have to really focus on this new task. You have to figure out the best time to do it (perhaps whilst you’re preparing your dinner the night before), remember to do it and plan ahead to make sure you have everything you need. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes, the more it becomes part of your normal daily routine (your new pathway is created) and you start to wonder what on earth you used to do for lunch before (your old pathway gets removed).
This is neuroplasticity, the process your brain goes through when it is re-wiring itself.
So a simple re-wiring task requires you to know your end point, which makes getting there as easy as possible by removing any obstacles and a concerted effort to repeat the task often enough for it to form that lovely new pathway.
A more complex re-wiring task may well require help from your local Inspired to Change hypnotherapist. That’s the beauty of hypnotherapy, it allows us to fast track this re-wiring process, to reduce the number of repetitions needed in order to set you on your new pathway and to ensure your brain has a flood of all the biochemical fuel it needs to help you get there so that, come January 2019, you aren’t looking for a whole ‘new you’, you’re happy with the one you’ve got!
So if you’re feeling stuck with old behaviour patterns and struggling to change your ways maybe it’s time to contact your nearest Inspired to Change hypnotherapist to book your FREE initial consultation. Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are based across the UK in Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Kent, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Somerset.
Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are all recognised by the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the UK’s leading not-for-profit hypnotherapy professional association.
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