“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
For years, we’ve heard advertisements for apps like Lumosity that work to improve your neuroplasticity. But what exactly is neuroplasticity, and how can you use neuroplastic healing to achieve optimal health and well-being?
According the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, Neural plasticity (also called neuroplasticity or neuronal plasticity)…
“can be defined as the ability of the central nervous system (CNS) to adapt in response to changes in the environment or lesions. This property of the CNS may involve modifications in overall cognitive strategies to successfully cope with new challenges (i.e., attention, behavioral compensation), recruitment of new/different neural networks, or changes in strength of such connections or specific brain areas in charge of carrying out a particular task (i.e., movement, language, vision, hearing).”
Did you notice the words I highlighted in bold type? They show that just as plastic is flexible, your brain and nervous system is flexible too. If it wasn’t, you couldn’t learn a new skill. In a nutshell – when you mindfully make healthy, new connections between the neurons in your brain, which result in greater well-being, you’re taking advantage of neuroplastic healing. If one brain circuitry isn’t working properly, you can often consciously train a different brain circuit to work around the broken one.
Another way of explaining neuroplasticity is to think of it as rewiring your brain. Take for example deeply ingrained habits. They literally form pathways in your brain, however you can mindfully disrupt these and reroute to create a new pathway towards a better habit. It takes time to form these new paths; that’s why using microhabits can be so useful.
Problems may arise because of inflammation, toxicity or genetic abnormalities at a cellular level. Brain circuits may die, become dormant or fire at irregular rates. Other circuits may become overactive. If your system has gone haywire because of illness, stress, trauma or unhealthy choices, your whole body-mind-spirit wellness will suffer.
Since your nervous system physiology is directed connected to your neuroplasticity, it’s important to keep your nervous system healthy. Read through the following list of how a person benefits from a healthy system. Then use this information to determine where neuroplastic healing may help you obtain your optimal state of well-being.
People who are out of balance and need neuroplastic healing often react to life’s challenges in one of two ways:
- They either live in the survival mode of fight/ flight response that pumps adrenaline and cortisol throughout their system all day long.
- They freeze up, shut down, tune out or numb themselves so they feel nothing.
When you work at restoring total body-mind-spirit wellness via somatic coaching, you create a foundation for neuroplastic healing. Then the above-mentioned benefits will become part of your life naturally. If you’d like to learn more, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
Change… you want it desperately, but at the same time it overwhelms you. How can you overcome your resistance to change? Sometimes it has to do with the size of change. If you’re willing to mindfully make tiny changes every day, you’ll obtain and surpass your wildest dreams – that’s what microhabits (some people spell it micro habits or micro-habits) are all about!
In order to make big changes in life, there are two truths we accept:
- It takes time, perhaps even years, to obtain big goals. Is this a hard change for you? Then you’ve identified an area of thinking you can do some work on.
- You’ll be most successful, if you perform tiny changes or microhabits when you feel fresh and strong. For many people, morning is their best time.
To get you started, here are some examples of microhabits you can use to mindfully transform your life:
Embrace rejection. If you don’t try, you’ll miss out on so many wonderful opportunities. Try this microhabit: every day reach out to someone you’d like to work with, even if you’re certain they won’t respond. You have nothing to lose, if you don’t take rejection personally.
Start living your dream now. If you dream of being a writer, your microhabit might be writing one paragraph a day. If you dream of running a marathon, your microhabit could be running an extra 1/8th mile or 10 minutes each day. You’ll either find out that dream is not for you, or you’ll start building momentum toward living your dream.
Track your spending. Create a greater awareness of money in/money out and time in/time out. You spend a big chunk of your life acquiring money, so it’s important to spend it in a way that supports the needs and wants of your future self over current ones. A microhabit might be tracking how much you spend on takeout or coffee; or only allow yourself 1 hour of TV per week.
Conserve your resources. Rather than purchasing something new, use or repurpose something you have. A tiny change could be mix, match and accessorize your clothes in new ways, so you don’t have to buy a new outfit.
Delight in maintaining yourself. Your mind, body and spirit need to be nurtured. View these activities as delights, not as necessary evils! Healthful food (eat one more serving of veggies and drink one more glass of water), restorative sleep (go to bed ½ hour earlier), invigorating exercise (add 5 more minutes daily), continuous learning (read during lunch break) are microhabits to improving these life essentials. Why not take my 7-Point Wellness Assessment and see how you’re doing in these areas?
Control your emotions. Before reacting to a situation, a new tiny habit would be to pause and assess its affect on your emotions by asking: “Why do I feel this way?”
Create an energy-stimulating environment. Clutter causes distress to our brains. Say “No” to people and things that don’t attract good energy. A new microhabit might be unsubscribing from physical magazines or online newsletters you never read; unfollowing people on Facebook; or filing that pile of papers on your desk.
Read more – scroll less. Reading engages your brain in a way that watching TV never can. (Click here to find some of my favorite books.) When you’re tired, a new microhabit might be taking a nap or going for a walk instead of channel surfing or scrolling through social media feeds.
Push yourself. Too often, our minds hold us back. When I’m doing my CrossFit, my mind gives out before my body does. I never would have known this, if I hadn’t learned to push myself. A new microhabit could be that you force yourself to do five minutes of whatever activity you need to do, even if you don’t “feel like it!” Then five minutes more…
Act on your good ideas. There are a few seconds between coming up with a great idea and when your brain kicks in and shoots it down. Learn to assess your ideas and take action quickly. A new tiny habit could be writing all of your ideas down and finish this sentence: “This is a great idea because…”
As you review this list you probably noticed, there’s a big difference between “living for the moment” (like attacking a big bag of chips) and “living in the moment” (mindfully extracting joy from each moment, knowing it supports the change you want to make).
Why not start identifying microhabits that will make a huge difference in your life? If you’d like an accountability partner, I’d love to help! Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
“The future depends on what we do in the present.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi
The Yo-Yo diet, a roller coaster of emotions, the ebb and flow of life are expressions we use to describe how life never happens in a straight line. We’re not robots, nor do we rely on instinct like animals do. We have to use our brains to plan, to choose, to decide, to act… Yet we often revert to unhealthy old behaviors rather than adopt new, healthier ones. Why is that?
When you try to do something that goes against your habitual behavior, you fight not only against your circumstances; you fight against yourself! But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. When you focus on skill building for habits that serve you rather than on changing solely by means of willpower, you’ll finally be able to create the life you really want to live.
According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, “40% to 45% of what we do every day is actually habit.” His studies led him to discover that every habit has three components. 1) The Cue – the trigger for the behavior; 2) The Behavior – what you do; and 3) The Reward – teaches your brain how to encode the pattern of behavior. Most people focus on the behavior, but it’s the cue and the reward that really determine why you practice a specific habit.
Do you want to reset your habits? It can be done through skill building. For habits to stick, they have to become your default state of being. Habits are automatic, naturally brain-friendly, learned behaviors. Yes, you’ve learned every habit you have.
That means you have the power to mindfully create any habit you want, if you learn the foundation of skill building for habits. Here are seven steps to make it happen…
- Identify one small action or thought you really want to embrace. Make it tiny and specific to increase your chances of success. For example, if you want to journal so you become more self-aware of the habits that are holding you back, your first step will be to buy a special journal and pen, and keep them with you.
- Choose an anchor behavior (The Cue) that triggers your new action. As soon as you experience a supportive action or self-limiting belief, jot in your journal a note, so you can explore it later in the day.
- Keep your new behavior (The Behavior) simple. Don’t over-complicate things or rush into trying to do too much. Every night, brew a cup of tea, sit in a designated spot and finish the entry in your journal.
- Create an environment conducive to success. If you habitually sit in front of the TV after dinner, don’t sit in that chair to journal. This helps break the cycle.
- Celebrate (The Reward). Don’t wait for some big milestone, before you celebrate. Each time you tell yourself you did a great job today, you release dopamine into your brain. This reward makes you want to replicate the behavior to experience that feeling again. If you have trouble talking nicely to yourself, be sure to enlist the help of a mentor, coach or friend who celebrates every win, no matter if they seem small. A win is a WIN!
- Rinse and repeat. Repetition is the mother of retention. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
- Assess and adjust. Even if a method worked for someone else, if it doesn’t work for you, try something different until you find a method that does work. Actively search for the best solution for YOU.
Over time, your new habit will be stored in your unconscious mind. It will become automatic and easy to do. No more fighting yourself to do what you really want! Baby steps lead to transformation. If you’d like guidance and accountability as you develop your skills for building new habits, please contact me and an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). It’s easier when you have help.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Where are you headed in life? Are you on the right path? Are you feeling lost? Is it time for a course correction? Every so often it’s beneficial to ask questions like these so you can assess your wellbeing, dreams and desires…and then change what isn’t working for you any longer.
Take a moment to experience how your body reacts to the following seventeen areas of life. Does each one make feel free and joyful, or do some of them make you experience pain, loss or other negative effects?
- Growth & learning
- Daily relaxation
This exploratory exercise helps you identify the areas of life that are making you feel lost. It takes courage to give attention to these feelings, but it’s the first step to feeling whole again. Over the last few years, I’ve been coaching people to extraordinary personal success. Along the way, I’ve gleaned some life lessons that you can use to create more joy in these lost areas of your life. Here are three of them that make the biggest impact:
1. Be the boss…take responsibility…make the hard choices. I’ve found that so many people struggle with taking ownership of their own lives. Somewhere along the way, they’ve given away their power to things that don’t serve them anymore. They don’t feel like they control their own lives.
But at some point, you have to realize you chose those things…the job, the family, the life. You may not be able to change your past, but if you want your future to reflect your desires, start managing your life.
I don’t mean quitting your job, divorcing your spouse and abandoning your children. Instead of following the whims of your past, mindfully shift your thoughts and experiences to ones that bring you joy. No matter what the circumstance is, you can change your focus. Rather than fixating on an annoyance, look for the positive in each experience. As you make this your new way of being, you’ll find that the former irritations and annoyances bother you little, if at all.
2. Distinguish healthy habits from mindless routines. Pay attention to how your daily habits may be shutting you off from new experiences. For example, when you work for yourself, you sit at home in front of a computer a lot. This creates tunnel vision. If you don’t go out to lunch with friends; if you don’t leave the house; if you don’t get outside stimuli…life begins to stagnate. Your daily routine imprisons you, without you even realizing it.
Look for ways to shake things up…eat a different breakfast, try a different exercise routine, accept more invitations to get out. Become more mindful and self-aware of what you say “yes” or “no” to. In that way, you make each decision a choice, not just a reflexive habit that may not be serving you any more.
3. Ask for and accept help…often. Independence is especially prized in Western culture. But think about this: what dreams could you pursue, if you relied more on others who want to help? Let go of that voice that says you have to do it by yourself. (If you’re curious about exploring a coaching partnership, but you still have reservations, please reach out to me with any questions.)
When you’re feeling lost, it’s important to actively choose systems for living that help you become the person you want to be. If you’d like to dig more deeply into assessing your state of wellness, I invite you to download my free 7-Point Wellness Assessment. It’s one of the tools I use in my coaching practice to start clients on the journey to finding their personal truth.
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Ancient wisdom says there are many benefits of waking up early. What’s your normal wake up time? Mine is 5:00 a.m. Some people, extreme early risers, get up around 4:00 a.m.
There are numerous reasons why I love getting up early each morning. No, I’m not saying it’s always easy, but once I’m up, I love it!
I love drinking my morning coffee with my sweetie and my two kitties. I love how it sets the tone for my day. I love driving through the morning light as I go to or come home from the gym. It’s my special time of the day, before other demands crowd in on me.
Maybe you’re not a “morning person” but getting in tune with the natural rhythms of life and the cycle of the sun can help you live more intentionally. Bottom line: you’ll feel better physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Here are five of my top benefits of waking up early:
Productivity. With a clear mind and well-rested body, the ability to concentrate is at its peak. No one is there to interrupt your train of thought or to impose their priorities upon you. You can optimize your performance, because your body hasn’t experienced the wear and tear of the day.
One warning: if you waste this time on emails, social media or texting, your brain will get a hit of dopamine, like you’ve accomplished something, but you haven’t accomplished anything with lasting satisfaction. The first hour of the day should be your time to focus on what matters most to you. Concentrate on doing “deep work” as author and professor, Cal Newport suggests.
More time. You feel like you don’t have enough time, right? I know you’ve said that a time or two. But when you get up early, it’s like you’re creating more time.
Wouldn’t you rather greet each day calmly, rather than being stressed out as you rush out the door? That just puts your game off for the whole day. Being up before everyone else gives you time to plan and getting organized.
Creativity. Sleep lets your brain sort through the previous day’s challenges. When you wake up to the sacred space you’ve created for yourself, the answers you’re seeking will more easily come to you. As your mind roams free in the tranquility of the morning, you’ll get some of your best ideas.
Mindful decisions. Waking up early means you’re going to have to go to bed earlier, because you do need restorative sleep. Developing the discipline to turn off that movie or close the book by 9:00 or 10:00 will give you a feeling of control…that you’re creating the life you want.
Before going to bed, plan out what you’ll do first thing in the morning. Lay out your gym clothes, or open the book you want to read or the journal you want to write in. Whatever your goals are…use this time as an investment in yourself.
Peace of Mind. There’s magic in the early morning hours. The air has a different feel. The birds are just waking up. The calm and quiet helps you think. It gives you the opportunity to listen to what your body and spirit is telling you. And there’s nothing better than watching the endless beauty of each sunrise.
Studies have shown that once you open your wallet and spend money, then it’s easier to do it again and again. The same is true with spending time as you invest in yourself. It breaks the dam of feeling unworthy. Are you ready to make that breakthrough and claim your worthiness? Then please attend our upcoming Foundations of Life Coaching and NLP in Ashland, Oregon. Nando and I promise you will reap huge benefits, if you come fully prepared to participate wholeheartedly.