Small changes, extraordinary effects
We recently welcomed the year 2023: a time for New Year's resolutions and the international trend of making changes at the beginning of another year. Some of us will immediately buy a gym membership, while others of us will turn off their TVs, and yet others may start studying towards a new professional career they have been dreaming of for years. For each of these changes, we need to work on our new habit. According to Dr. Maxwell Maltz , the author of the book "Psycho-Cybernetics" 21 days is enough for us to develop a new habit. Is this true, and where did the number 21 come from?
In order to understand all of this, we have to look at how the human brain functions. thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain and its regeneration of neuronal cells that we can learn new activities. All of the experiences that our body receives shape the cerebral cortex throughout life, yet only the number of stimuli, relationships, movements, and exposure to different experiences give us a chance to use its full potential. We all want to make lasting changes to our daily behavior from time to time – for example, to exercise more or spend less time on our phones – but how can we make this a reality? Keep reading!
What is a habit?
Habits are behaviors that have become automatic to us. They can arise, and in turn be eliminated, either consciously or unconsciously. We may not even realize we exhibit some of these behaviors.
Not all habits are beneficial or practical, and some can be downright harmful. This is because habit formation does not take place in the prefrontal cortex, the "sensible" decision-making part of our brain. A 2006 paper published in the journal “Nature Reviews Neuroscience” suggests that the ability to form and maintain habits may instead be rooted in the basal ganglia.
The basal ganglia are clusters of neurons, or nerve cells, that are located deep in the brain, underneath our white matter (one of the two basic components of the nervous system). They are crucial for emotional development, pattern recognition, problem solving, and learning. .
So how can we help ourselves to achieve our inner resolutions of changing and building healthy habits that support our financial, physical or emotional development?
Start with small changes
Small habits contribute to big changes. . We often tell ourselves that great success requires great action. Meanwhile, improving something by 1% may not feel particularly noteworthy – it can even appear imperceptible – but it can have a much more significant impact in the long run.
You must be consistent and patient, since habits are an intrinsic part of self-development. . What we need to do is recognize and implement regular or routine activities that are not only short and easy but are also a source of incredible strength and components of a system that allows us to multiply our progress.
Make it obvious
Being clear about what you want and how you plan to get it helps you to let go of things that delay, distract, and throw you off course. With vague and dreams, it’s easy to justify minor exceptions all day long, instead of focusing on what you need to be successful in the first place. .
Make it attractive
The more tempting something is, the more likely it is to develop into a habit. Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. When the level of dopamine increases, the desire to act also increases. At the same time, dopamine is an important neurotransmitter synthesized and released by dopaminergic neurons of the central nervous system. In the brain, dopamine partially functions as a “general reward signal” – not only when pleasure is experienced, but also when it is expected.
Make it easy
People follow the path of least resistance, and . Each action requires a certain amount of energy, and the more energy you need, the less likely it is that the action will occur. Think of any activity that takes up a large part of your life and you will find that you can do it with very little motivation. Habits such as scrolling through something on a smartphone, reading emails and watching TV steal so much time because they can be done almost effortlessly. They are exceptionally comfortable.
To look at it another way, if your goal is to do 100 push-ups a day, that can be a lot of work for your brain. It will make more sense and be less exhausting after the initial excitement burns out to do just one push-up a day, which is no sacrifice. Remember to create an environment where doing the right thing is easiest, which may mean preparing your environment to help facilitate you doing .
Make it satisfying
The evolution of the human brain has led to the translation of immediate rewards into delayed ones. . The feeling of success is a signal that the habit has paid off and the game was worth the candle. It is worth noting that you should choose short-term rewards that reinforce your sense of purpose. Over time, as the natural rewards of a good mood, more energy, and less stress begin to kick in, you'll stop caring so much about the secondary reward. Identity itself will become a strength. An important reminder here is that just knowing you're making progress is incredibly rewarding, and you can easily achieve this by keeping track of your habits (like putting X's in the calendar or dancing at the end of your week).
Using Maxwell Maltz’s tips about the 3-week action plan, as well as the systems described in the book ”"Atomic Habits" by James Clear, maybe it's worth rising to the challenge and giving it a try?
Set yourself a time limit, define an action plan, reward yourself and be proud of your achievements.
Bright Side – A Journey Through Your Nervous System
Cleveland Clinic – Dopamine
KS Smith and AM Graybiel – Habit Formation
石川侑作 – Neuron cluster signal transfer inside brain 3D model
Thank you for reading and nice comment. :) Have you set any goals for yourself or working on new hobbies? :)