“Neuroplasticity is the property of the brain that enables it to change its own structure and functioning in response to activity and mental experience.”
― Norman Doidge, The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity
Contrary to the old saying, which implies that adults or elderly are set in their ways and unable to learn new skills, brain researchers have found that the brain and many parts of the nervous system are malleable, adaptable and receptive at any point in life, not just during childhood.
This concept is known as neuroplasticity, referring to a plasticity, or mold-ability of the quality of the tissues in the nervous system.
Change does not always come easy, but because of nueroplasticity, those of us, regardless of age are very encouraged to know that with work to grow, we can learn new skills and replace long lasting habits with brand new healthier ones.
The science of this aspect of human biology couldn’t be more timely. In this time of rapid change, so many of us can benefit from reshaping our brains and perceptions. From workers needing to learn new skills, people needing to learn new languages, and those just wanting to improve their confidence and mental wellbeing…..the possibilities are endless for anyone!
One of my favorite studies highlighting neuroplasticity is when NASA mandated a group of astronauts to wear special convex goggles 24/7 that literately flipped their world upside down. They wanted to test how spatial distortions would effect their brain. At first the astronauts were ill, but soon adjusted. But between the 26th and 30th day of the experiment, each one of the astronauts began to see the world normal again with the convex goggles still on! The pathways in their brains had flipped the images.
This study proves that in order for a new habit to become easier, we need to stick with it for at least 30 days continuously. After 90 days of continuous action it becomes more “second nature”.
Mindset refers to the crucial distinction between life circumstances and our perception of them. Many people think that life is the way it is, without accounting for how their experiences are filtered through their unique perceptions.
I was a person, who despite having many blessings, chose to have a negative mindset by focusing my attention only on the bothersome. Plus I would love to commiserate with you and get your validation.
Here are three ways I have improved my mindset and now experience greater joy in life because of it.
1. Taking 100% Responsibility for your choices and experience
We always have a choice of the thoughts we entertain in our mind, what we say and the action we do or don’t take. We often forget or don’t recognize this, and use life events as reasons or excuses to justify our behavior.
Often when finishing up a phone call, many people say “ I should let you go”, instead of saying “I’m ready to wrap up our conversation and say goodbye now”. Although the latter may sound unfamiliar, it is a small, yet powerful way to use language to take ownership of our truth and not use someone else as a substitute of our experience.
Another instance is, instead of saying, “I have to”, using the words “I choose to”. Going to a job we don’t like doesn’t feel like a choice, however we are choosing to work the job vs. facing consequences of not having rent money for example.
I often hear people saying that others ‘make them’ feel a certain way. This is a missed opportunity for us to see that we are choosing an emotional state in response to someone’s specific behavior or action.
2. Adopting a Growth Mindset
I used to live in what I now can identify as a ‘fixed mindset’. Everyday I woke with anxiety because I had this looming voice of authority in my mind judging me for everything in life, even little things like leaving clothes on my bedroom floor or forgetting to floss.
A baby learning to walk is an example of a ‘growth mindset’ in action. A baby simply learns by doing, by imitating those who are walking, not by comparing and feeling unworthy because they cannot already walk. A baby must tumble and fall again and again. This is true for most new things we choose to adopt. Imagine if babies gave up learning to walk because they fell 100 times and decided it wasn’t for them. With a growth mindset, we see that perfection never actually existed. Failure doesn’t exist either, simply growing as we learn new things, face new circumstances and take action towards what fulfills us!
3. Self Re-Hypnosis
Hypnosis refers to a state of consciousness involving focused and limited attention on something. Many of us have spent years and even decades focusing is on our flaws, shortcomings and often very specific things we don’t like about ourselves. The consistency and intensity of these thoughts over time can create a type of self-induced hypnotic state many of us are unaware of. With the understanding that we are largely controlled by our subconscious mind, we can consciously use hypnosis techniques to bring positive influences and perceptions to our subconscious success mechanisms
One of my favorite techniques is to fall asleep listening to positive subliminal messages. You can easily find affirmations for love, health and financial abundance online, for free, to listen to. Because the messages work on a subconscious level, they reprogram beliefs on deep levels of our psyche, even while we sleep. The key is to listen to them consistently, as change can take time.
With these empowering mindset shifts, you can start or continue reaching for your big goals in life, not needing to know how to advance or be perfect. You can also harness the power of your subconscious controllers and use different forms of affirmations to reprogram your self-image for more automatic success. And now, the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of getting aggravated, you can choose to stay jovial and imagine that they had an urgent need to go to the bathroom.