The Remarkable Power of Habit:
Strengthen Your Habits and Strengthen Your Brain
I recently began thinking about the importance of habits and their role in navigating our daily choices. Even when we’re not aware of it, habits form structures to manage each day. We open our eyes in the morning, get out of bed, brush our teeth, wash up. We have routines for how we eat, engage with others, deal with routine financial responsibilities. The accumulation of all of our habits, large and small, are the building blocks of our day-to-day lives.
And here’s some amazing news – creating and strengthening our habits can strengthen our brains.
Brain science is showing us that when we change our habits and engage in new experiences, we change the workings in our brains. This process is called neuroplasticity, and it offers extraordinary insight into our brains’ capacity to produce new connections as we learn throughout our lives (Siegel, 2010; 2012). Thus as we focus our attention on new learning, skills, and experiences, our brains change. Research shows that this brain development can continue throughout our lives. Even as we get older – at ages 50, 60, 70, 80 and beyond, when we develop and expand our habits, our brains can develop and grow new neural connections.
In addition to building new pathways in the brain, greater awareness of our habits – both the good and the bad – can inform how we show up in our lives. With this awareness and a few strategic guideposts, we can make choices to maintain those habits that serve us well and change those that don’t.
According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (2018), we can get remarkable results by making one tiny change at a time. In the beginning, creating a habit is more critical than actually achieving a goal. He recommends getting just 1% better each day. According to Clear, accumulating habits involves deciding the kind of person you want to be and then empowering your vision with a process of small wins emerging from habits. One step at a time, we create a personal system as these habits inform our way of being in the world.
To be honest, no one has been more awakened by these realizations than I have! Although I coach people on the fundamentals for building habits, I personally have rebelled against the idea of habits, thinking of them as a bit rigid and mundane. Now I understand that we all have habits, and we can harness them so they work for us more effectively.