New Year Neuroscience

A recent study by Strava (the social network for athletes) concluded that most people begin to struggle with their New Year’s resolutions on January 12th and ‘give up’ by January 17th. According U.S. News & World report, the rate of failure for New Year’s resolutions is around 80%.

It might be that you are struggling to keep up the momentum of losing weight, getting fit, stopping a bad habit or saving money. It is certainly hard to achieve a rapid change in behaviour when the impetus of that change is just a calendar date; an event very external to the systems of our minds.

Hypnotherapy, whilst helping to hardwire these changes at a deeper level, can also offer an insight into the neurology of the brain and how we can use our brains own neural learning systems to keep the change alive.

So here is a boost for those who are struggling to maintain the positive change. Some little tips and the science behind them:

Keep stimuli front of mind

Have you ever noticed how companies like Nike and Apple use very minimalist advertising? They don’t include long copy about the benefits of their products and often the logo is enough to sell the brand. This is because the aim of the advert is to keep their products ‘front of mind’ so that when we need a new pair of trainers or mobile phone, we are likely to recall their company as a provider.

This technique is very powerful in advertising and can be used to help us maintain momentum in our resolutions. For example, you could leave reminders around the house of the new lifestyle you are trying to adopt. If you are trying to be more healthier, you could leave a fruit bowl in the kitchen to remind you of your options when you feel like a snack or your gym bag near the front door to keep exercise a ‘front of mind’ decision.

Keeping stimuli in constantly visited locations will act as a sure fire way of keeping the change that you want a priority in your life.

Make breaking your resolutions hard

Our minds are a mass of neural networks (roughly 100 billion neurons to be precise). Neurons are the cells that are responsible for collecting information from the outside world and sending commands to all of the systems in our bodies, both consciously and subconsciously. At every given moment our brains are using these complex systems to make decisions about what actions we should take. It will constantly be weighing up the reward gained versus the effort given. Too much effort to gain the reward and the brain is likely to decide not to bother.

Therefore, always make what you want to achieve easy (i.e the fridge stocked with healthy food) and what you want to avoid, difficult (and never have the bad food in the cupboards).

Attach your habits to already existing ones

Our brains take between 21 to 45 days to learn a new habit. This is because your brain has to do something consciously for a number of times before this repetition in hardwired in the subconscious. It is more likely, then, to become an automated habit. It is difficult, therefore, in the early days, to ‘remember’ to drink 2 litres of water a day until the habit has be repeated several times over.

But we have so many habits that are already repeated throughout our day; getting up, that first morning coffee, jumping in the shower, checking the post. Why not attach a habit that you want to do to a habit that you already do. Therefore, if your resolution is to drink more water, you could decide to have a glass when you get out of the shower or when you open the post in the morning. Doing this will help you both remember and hardwire the new change of behaviour that you desire.

Stay positive

The phrase ‘stay positive’ is such a buzzword and not easy to do. However, we can learn a lot from our ancestors who knew that it is easier to be positive when we interact and act in positive ways. Exercise, social interaction, laughing, reading, hobbies and interests all help to create that feel good neurotransmitter ‘serotonin’ associated with feelings of wellbeing and happiness. By creating this chemical in abundance we are more likely to remain in our intellectual minds and not in the limbic systems of our brains which promote bad behaviours and negative solutions.

I am proud to be a Solution Focused hypnotherapist as everything we do is based upon using brain science, not magic, to create positive change. If you would like to find out more about how to make you positive changes permanent then please get in touch.

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