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Help your brain form productive habits

From not being able to roll out of bed to jumping out of it before dawn to do some early-morning meditation? From being horrible at keeping up with friends to updating each other weekly? Whatever habits you’ve been wanting to have, it’s not too late. The magic word here: neuroplasticity.

Got to love that brain

Neuroplasticity is, in short, awesome.

It is a remarkable ability of our brain to form new neural pathways regardless of age. Although it might take more time compared to our childhood and teenage years, we are definitely capable of learning new skills and forming new habits at literally any age. In other words, it’s definitely good news for all those old dogs who’ve been discouraged from learning new tricks!

So your brain is certainly capable of changing. Now, are you willing?

Neuroplasticity invites us to ask a potentially irritating but important question: what are the habits, the conditions in which you work productively or simply function better as a human being? What are the ways you’d like to change your routine? The habits you’d like to form? Whatever it is – hydrating more, going to bed early, exercising in the morning – neuroplasticity has your back. And there are several tips that can help you put your action plan, well, into action.

Help your brain help you

Let’s look into three simple tips and one factor that ties everything together.

Create a system of accountability. Depending on the habit you’re trying to form, think of finding a partner in your quest. Check on each other and encourage each other. For example, a weekly update on how that quest is going can be good opportunity to reflect on what may be inhibiting your progress (if anything, it can be a good opportunity to laugh at yourself for having thought that progress would be quicker).

Establish  a healthy reward system (‘healthy’ is key). Reward yourself for a substantial task accomplished (‘substantial’ is key). Basically, an hour of Netflix for each page written might be a bit of a stretch, but small rewards shouldn’t mess with your ego too much.

Remove temptations, get rid of distractions: surely you’ve heard about this one. From keeping your desk uncluttered, your fridge junk-food-less, to closing all those 20 tabs on your browser (it’s time to admit to yourself you’re not gonna watch that TED talk you’ve been saving for weeks). By simply asking “OK, what are the potential obstacles to me sticking to my new habit?” and then eliminating at least some of those obstacles you can help your neurons make that new pathway more quickly.

Finally, we’ve reached the Big Thing, the Real Deal.

In the end, it’s very much about internal motivation. Research shows that, not surprisingly, we are more likely to achieve a behavioral goal when that goal is determined by us, and doesn’t stem so much from external pressure. As so many fitness trainers ask, what is your reason behind doing this? What is it that you’re trying to achieve? Find your reason and remind yourself of it.

If you can clearly imagine the benefits this new habit will bring to your life, and if you already have that motivation, you’re sort of halfway done. The second half is definitely a lot of work, but remember: your own neurons are cheering for you!

Let’s all get equipped and go form some productive habits. And then reward ourselves with a Netflix marathon, of course.

By Justina Poskeviciute

Justina is an awesome writer living in Budapest.

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