Neuroplasticity - What It Is And Why It's The Answer You're Looking For

Neuroplasticity looks like one of those scary words. 

It's big and has the word neuro in it, which can seem intimidating! 

But if you've been struggling to hit the goals you set, it's time to get comfortable with this word. It's about to become the answer to all your struggles. And yes, I do mean ALL your struggles!

Let me explain. Have you ever set a goal for yourself that you really wanted? Let's say you want to lose weight. You put in the energy to meal plan, prep, and get pumped - only to fall back on execution? You just can't seem to get yourself to go to the gym and those cookies have been screaming your name all day. In your brain, you know what you want, you know how to get it, but you can't seem to get yourself to take the action needed to get it. Why? Well, that, my friends, comes from an underutilized gift that you've been holding this whole time. 

Yup, you guessed it - neuroplasticity. 

So, what is Neuroplasticity?

Simply put, neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change over your life. No joke, that big word boils down to one short sentence! 

And because your brain CAN change, morph, and grow - you too can change. You just have to know how to work together. Basically, you need to know how to practice effectively. 

You can try to learn how to run on your own, but if your form is off, you may injure yourself. You learned how to run, but you didn't learn correctly, and truth is, your body doesn't know the difference. 

You see, you're like a computer and your central nervous system (brain and spine) are your hard drive. You enter information from the external world into your system, your brain and spine translates that into code, and then it sends that code along your neural pathways to tell the rest of your body what to do. 

For example, go ahead and tap your forehead 5 times. Right now. Do it. 

That action came because you told your brain to send a message to your hand to tap your forehead. You've been practicing mobility (strengthening that response) since you were born, so this should have been a fairly easy exercise. Because of that, you were able to control your hand. You have complete control over your brain which has complete control over your body, it just comes down to practice. 

But Then, Why Aren't Positive Actions Automatic?

You'd think that, since you have this control over your body, you could just will yourself to go to the gym or skip the ice cream isle of the supermarket, but it doesn't work that way. 

Like we touched on before, every ability in your life comes from PRACTICE. You learn something and then do it over and over again until you don't have to think about it anymore. It becomes routine through a developed neural connection between your brain and spine to the rest of your body. 

That's why starting a new routine is so difficult, because you already have this strong neural pathway formed within you by adapting to life and your body simply doesn't realize that you don't want to use that road anymore, even if it's going in the wrong direction. 

By practicing mindfulness and stress management, you can become aware of your routines so you can interrupt them and complete the task at hand. 

How To Use Neuroplasticity To Get Results

So now, you understand that your external world affects your thoughts which affect your physical actions. You also know that the responses to the external world that you've already practiced through your life develop as automatic pathways to your body to tell it what to do. 

Once you understand that, the rest is fun. Suddenly, your abilities and what you can create become a game and it's exciting to see how far you can push yourself!

You'll want to start with something small. Keeping with our earlier example, if your goal is weight loss, try switching to one healthy meal a day. Maybe that's breakfast (I generally suggest a smoothie to my clients). By eating a smoothie every day, you're retraining your brain to understand that this is the food that you'll be having for breakfast. Soon, you won't even think about it anymore and it will be an automatic understanding in your body to make that for breakfast because you've trained your brain through neuroplasticity. 

But don't forget, your old neuropathways are still strong in the beginning and it's exhausting for your system to rewire. That's why most people fail when they take on projects, tasks, and goals that are too big for us to execute. They simply can't form that many new pathways all at once. 

As you continue to form new habits, the old neural pathways will get weak. As the saying goes, if you don't use it, you lose it, and in this case - let it be gone! 

How To Become Mindful

The last (and really first) step here is to become mindful. Having awareness of your actions and responses to the physical world is the only way to rewiring your brain and, even though it seems daunting, we're really just talking about focusing on the present moment. 

Take a couple of minutes each day (yes, that's all you need) to focus on one task. I like to do it when I'm doing the dishes or coloring (yes, I like to color, don't judge me!) because my hands are busy and I can't really do anything else. 

Just make sure you're breathing deeply (let your belly expand, no one is watching you) and every time you think about something else, just refocus on the task at hand. Continually bringing your attention back to the present will strengthen that neuropathway until it's strong enough to practice in other areas of your life. 

Basically, I'm giving you the green light to color for 5-10 minutes each day. It's for your success!

Neuroplasticity Utilization Action Steps

Essentially, your brain and spine are created to send messages to the rest of your body to tell it what to do. When you practice a new habit that is positioning you for success, it will rewire your brain to automatically act on it. But remember, practice makes permanent, not perfect, so make sure you're choosing a habit that will benefit you!

Become aware of your external world, what you spend your time and energy on, because that is what you are teaching your brain. Spend a few minutes focusing on the present moment (look at what colors, smells, sounds, feelings etc are around you) and whenever your thoughts drift, just bring yourself back to the present. This is practice at it's finest and it definitely gets easier. 

Lastly, take one small action and do it everyday until it feels automatic and easy. When it does, add in a second action. Those actions will build to bring you success in a much simpler and easier way. 

If you have any questions about neuroplasticity or want to work with me to help guide you through retraining your brain for success - don't hesitate to contact me at Carolyn@WithoutTheWeight.com!