And Sticking Your Middle Finger Up At Blue Monday
The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.Motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Looking after yourself can be bl**dy hard. And that’s at the best of times, let alone the worst.
It’s way too easy to slip (back) into bad habits, turn off and disconnect from your health and well-being.
It seems that the big bad web has tonnes of advice on how to look after yourself and how to be the best you for the short-term and the imminent future. However, there are very few useful guides to ensure you maintain and continue your road to health-freedom, for the long-term.
So, we’ve stripped it back and curated a science-backed plan that’ll help you to keep up your well-being habits, for the long-term.
We’ve kept it short, so you can keep it long.
Neuroplasticity is about to become an old-new friend of yours. Old because you’ve always had it, new because you’re about to tap into it.
Neuroplasticity is in the words of The Oxford Dictionary:
“The ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.”
Thanks to neuroplasticity, you can train your brain to create and stick to new habits. A study named A Critical Review of Habit Learning and the Basal Ganglia by Seger et al., highlights the brain’s complexities when it comes to creating and learning habits.
It states: “Given the complexity of habit learning, it likely recruits a number of neural systems in healthy, intact organisms.” It explains that many parts of the brain are involved in forming and keeping up with habits, no matter how big or small the habit is.
With many parts of the brain invested in helping you to create and stick to habits, it’s no wonder that effort is needed to implement a habit in the first place. Writer and well-known voice in the mental health community, Debbie Hampton, explains:
“When you first try to adopt a new behavior, you have to enlist your prefrontal cortex, the thinking brain, and insert conscious effort, intention, and thought into the process. When you’ve performed the new routine enough times for connections to be made and strengthened in your brain, the behavior will require less effort as it becomes the default pattern.”
How can you create a healthy habit that sticks?
Step 1: Choose your habit.
Such as working out, reading a book a month, meditating each morning, learning French, tap dancing, knitting, being kind, reducing your stress levels or/and training your brain with the Peak app each day.
Step 2: Conscious effort.
Make a conscious effort to start and continue doing your habit. A conscious effort with conviction is vital. For the first few weeks, maybe a month or two, you’ll need to make an extra effort to ‘do’ the habit. If you don’t, the habit won’t stick and you’ll give up.
Here’s how to make sure you stick with the effort:
- Don’t use time as an excuse. Make sure you always reserve time to do it.
- Track your efforts. Make a note of your efforts so you can see that what you’re doing is achievable for now and in the future. If you’ve written your progress on paper, then pop it somewhere people can see, comment and give you a boost. It feels so good to share your progress with others.
- Be soft, then strict. Feeling a bit off one day and don’t fancy doing your habit? That’s fine, be soft on yourself and take a break from the habit. Feeling a bit off the next day and the next? Okay, so now’s the time to be strict on yourself and have a few stern words. In the wise words of Nike – just do it.
- Find your purpose. Write down the reasons why you want to nail this habit and continue doing it long-term. What is it that makes you want to succeed? Is it to get fit? To learn new skills? To utilise your neuroplasticity? To help someone else? To give your life more meaning? To show yourself that you’re capable of anything? To boost your brain?
Step 3: Default connections made.
After getting into the swing of it with step 1 and 2, at this point, your brain’s default connections should be formed/forming in the brain. This means that the habit you’ve been forcing should now be a ‘real’ habit, wired into the brain . A habit you do without even making a conscious effort and which doesn’t require a pep talk beforehand. It should now become part of your life’s pattern thanks to the brain’s connections.
Using these 3 steps and a multitude of other factors, it’s vital to be patient and to be aware of differing time frames. For some, the brain’s connections may be formed slower or faster than others. It could take a week of hard work and effort for a habit to form, or it could take 8 weeks. It depends on the habit, your brain and other factors. Be patient, it’ll be worth it.
Brought to you by Peak, makers of the Peak – Brain Training and Peak Sleep – Sleep Better apps. Start brain training and sleeping well today:
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