It can be very challenging to replace and break old habits. ‘Habits that you automatically do for many years cannot be easily replaced’ (Stokes, et. el, 2010). However, do not despair because ‘the impossible is possible even in old age and there is no such thing as being too old to train your brain’ (Zehr, 2013). Dr. Daltry (n.d.) strongly believes that flexibility of the brain, known as neuroplasticity, can conceivably replace old habits with new, positive pathways.
The brain (Stokes, 2010) is a sophisticated, dynamic organ which is intricately inter-connected to the mind and body. Dr. Daltry (n.d.) usually explains to her patients how the brain works and affects life through introducing neural pathways. She explicitly describes 'neural pathway as a series of connected neurons that send signals from one part of the brain to another. The three main neurons, namely: a) motor neurons that control muscles; b) sensory neurons that are stimulated by our senses; and c) inter-neurons that connect neurons together, are all connected to each other. These neurons process the information we receive, enable us to interact, experience emotions and sensations, and create our memories and enable us to learn.'
Dr. Stokes and Dr. Ward (2010) believe that knowing how to develop and strengthen the new neural pathways will create new habits of thinking, feeling and acting, which naturally weaken old pathways. Through regular practice and repetition, this process of forming, strengthening, and solidifying neural pathways is best theorized by Donald Hebb’s who in 1949 wrote, “neurons that fire together wire together”.
Hani (2017) states that depending on the individual’s unique experiences that have shaped one's brain, it can take between 3–6 months for a new behavior to become a habit. By connecting the new behaviour to many areas of the brain, through using the five senses such as smell, touch, taste, see and hear helps in the formation of new neural pathways. Moreover, Dr. Stokes (2010) believes that the more emotion you engage in your experience, the more neurons you activate to form well-worn pathways. Since the brain is highly influenced by the limbic system, emotions and feelings bind you to your experiences. This emotional energy gives power to your memories, goals, hopes, and dreams. ‘You are more likely to make changes when new behaviors are associated with positive emotions because you tend to be more creative and open to trying new things according to Barbara Frederickson’ (Hani, 2017).
So what are you waiting for? Have a growth mindset to replace your old habits with new desirable ones to aspire to be the person you want to be.
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Hani, J. (2017). The Neuroscience of Behavior Change. Health Transformer. Retrieved January, 2021 from https://healthtransformer.co/the-neuroscience-of-behavior-change
Daltry, D. (n.d.). What are Neural Pathways? Great Minds Clinic Blog. Retrieved January, 2021 from https://www.greatmindsclinic.co.uk/blog/what-are-neural-pathways/
Stokes, H. & Ward, K. Ph.D. (2010). Neural Plasticity: 4 Steps to Change Your Brain & Habits. Authenticity Associates Coaching & Counseling. Retrieved January, 2021 from https://www.authenticityassociates.com/neural-plasticity-4-steps-to-change-your-brain/
Zehr, E. Ph. D. (2013) Teaching Old Brain New Tricks and Kicks. Psychology Today. Retrieved January, 2021 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/black-belt-brain/201303/teaching-old-brain-new-tricks-and-kicks