When you understand how neural pathways are created in the brain, you get a front row seat for truly comprehending how to let go of habits. Neural pathways are like superhighways of nerve cells that transmit messages. You travel over the superhighway many times, and the pathway becomes more and more solid. You may go to a specific food or cigarettes for comfort over and over, and that forms a brain pathway. The hopeful fact, however, is that the brain is always changing and you can forge new pathways and create new habits. That’s called the neuroplasticity of the brain.
I used to drive with one foot on the brake and the other on the accelerator, and I wanted to train myself to drive with one foot only. It took some time, as I had a strong neural pathway for two-footed driving. But because I had the will to do it, I built a new pathway, and I rewired or reprogrammed my brain. You can remove a behavior or thought or addictions directly from the brain.
Because of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ever-changing potentials, anything is possible. People who’ve had strokes can retrain their brains to function again by building new pathways. Smokers and overeaters and many others can learn new behaviors and attitudes and can transform their lives.
Whether you work with others on their habits or you work with your own (or both), you can apply these understandings to boost your success.
Some Powerful Ways to Retrain the Brain
1. Identity the habit you’d like to transform and set the intention.
You may remember the punch line “The light bulb has to want to change.” You have to have a high intention to change as well. If there is this high intention, then creating new pathways in your brain is bound to happen.
2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.
Look at feelings, thoughts, and how the body is responding to the habit, and see what results you’re creating in your life. Be the witness, and be aware.