Until fairly recently, it was thought that people’s beliefs and ideas were ‘fixed’ by the time we reached adulthood. Of course, childhood played a major part in shaping us and we can still clearly recall the voices of our parents, grandparents and teachers late in our lives, living on in our minds when they are no longer here physically.
However, a startling reality has been proved – that neuroplasticity enables us to make major changes in our brains well into our old age. Neuroplasticity is our brains’ ability to rewire our brain cells (neurons), allowing us to establish new connections, essentially changing the way we think and behave.
We build neural pathways throughout our lives whenever we learn to do something or repeat a behaviour. We can observe this in the way commuters on a train will take the same seat every day or we hang our coat on the same hook when we arrive at work, or make a beeline for the same chair in our staff meetings. If you think about your daily routine, you may find examples.
It is a fact that it takes around forty five days to unlearn a behaviour. So, maybe you want to stop eating biscuits with your coffee, or to curb your addiction to social media. If you establish a different behaviour and stop the habit you want to break for forty five days, that neural pathway will fade and the new behaviour will etch a new neural pathway in its place. By forming new pathways in our brain we can weaken the old connections. So it is worth asking yourself what will take the place of the old habit so you are not left with a gap. Of course you can choose to break a habit in an instant, by deactivating your Twitter account or not buying any biscuits but it is reassuring to know that the habit can become as though it never existed even if it was established many years ago.
The person that you are and your set of skills, abilities and beliefs results from the way your brain cells are interlinked. How empowering does it feel to know that you can rewire your brain in ways that are life changing?