“The world is full of a lot of fear and a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment. I just think people need to start shifting their focus onto joy and happiness. As corny as it sounds, we need to make a shift.”
– Ellen DeGeneres
Continuing the posts on Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits. Now on to steps two and three:
2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.
3. Shift your focus.
Habits are hard to break, we all know that, but one thing that helps immensely is observing, really paying attention to how destructive the habit is. Whether it’s spending more money than I can really afford; biting the cuticles around my nails; or drinking more alcohol than I want to. By observing and really paying attention to the consequences, I can start to realign my focus.
The way I do this is by firstly focusing really hard on the bad habit, I shine a spot light on it, brutally. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out. By writing down and clearing out all the negative stuff that is part of the bad habit, it helps make room for positive change. Recent research published in the journal Psychology Today shows that writing down negative thoughts and negative past experiences and then ripping them up and throwing them away actually helps to change those thoughts and habits.
In Figjam Workshops Creative Empowerment Workshop, participants consistently say that doing this exercise has a remarkably healing effect. Try it! Take a big sheet of paper and write down all the negative effects associated with the bad habit, everything you can think of. And when you feel like you have gotten everything out, rip it up. Stamp on it! Scream NO at it! Burn it! You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
Then, Shift the Focus. To create a new neural pathway, you need to focus on what it is you want. Start focusing on all the positives associated with not having that habit. For example, healthy cuticles or healthy nails. When I wanted to stop biting my cuticle, I rubbed lotion into my cuticles several times a day. I kept my nails shaped, and focused on how much better my hands looked. Yes, I know it sounds really simplistic, but in a way it is. This is how neuroplasticity works. It’s just about getting new neural pathways started. Remember what Dr. Rick Hanson says about self-directed neuroplasticity – it is ongoing. Our brains are changing all the time. We can choose what we focus on and what new neural pathways are being created!
I want to close with a fascinating TED talk by neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms. A wonderful look inside the brain.
I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior. And if you do use the ‘Write and Rip’ technique – how it worked for you. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.