Posts Tagged "change"

What can be learned from the Winter Warlock

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Brain Changing | 0 comments

What can be learned from the Winter Warlock

One of my most cherished childhood memories was the annual airing of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. This lively retelling of the history of Santa included a message that has stayed with me all my life. When the young Kris Kringle transforms the Winter Warlock into a thoughtful wizard with a gift of kindness, Winter expresses a desire to change his behavior permanently, but, like many of us, he fears this is too difficult. Until very recently, neuroscientists believed that the adult brain was fixed and unchangeable. But today’s scientific buzzword is neuroplasticity. ‘Neuro’ means brain, and ‘plastic’ means changeable—neuroplasticity is just a fancy word for brainchanging. Neuroscientists might have thought Brain-Changing was difficult or impossible, but many ordinary people disagreed; they were just waiting for the science to catch up. Kris Kringle’s advice to the winter warlock about the possibility and path of behavior change has stuck with me all of my life: big changes start with little changes. I could write a lot about the process of habit change, but I doubt I would do a better job than the song I remember so well… Changing habits is more than changing your mind. The brain and nervous system is similar to a network of electrical circuits and cables. Neuroplasticity, or Brain=Changing literally “rewires” your brain. When we start a new behavior, the wire is thin and patchy. The connection is as slow as an old AOL dial up. But the more we practice a certain behavior the stronger and faster the connection becomes. When we are born, the brain is a bit like a new computer. The hard drive is almost empty, except for a few essential software programs. After a while, the hard drive gets full and cluttered. In order to “enter new data,” something has to go. The adult brain is similar—new behaviors only get incorporated if they are important enough to earn some valuable brain real estate. The Brain-Changing Formula of mindfulness, movement and mood are what alert your brain to the desirability of the new behavior. When we are mindful and pay attention, so does our brain. A treadmill is not mindful. The brain values movement more than anything. It isn’t enough to think about something, or gather information from Google. We have to actually, physically move our body… even if it is something as simple as writing, or talking, or walking. Finally, mood is crucial. Our brain puts priority on extremes. We learn much more effectively and efficiently when we are happy and calm. The brain interprets our constant mental state of stress and scrambling as a bar to new learning; it needs to take care of immediate and potentially threatening problems before devoting the valuable resources of building blocks and fuel towards learning something new or developing a new habit. Healthy habits don’t happen overnight. But you can do a lot to facilitate the process. Start by STARTING. Mark Twain once said “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” What better way to lighten the mood than to walk with your dog? You will BOTH benefit. And remember the song: “Just put one foot in front of the other…”  It’s a step in the right...

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Simple guidelines for developing Walking Habits

Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in Walking | 0 comments

Simple guidelines for developing Walking Habits

So, if walking is such an amazing activity, how should you do it? Seems like a weird question right? I mean walking is walking, how complicated can it get? Although this is true, how you should walk still remains a very important question, simply because many people have lots of misconceptions when it comes to this wonderful activity. Here are our simple guidelines to get you started with making “walking a habit”: Try and walk a bit everyday, because HOW OFTEN is a lot more important than HOW you walk. The only way to make a new habit it to keep practicing it. This sounds daunting at first. Doing anything everyday almost seems impossible. But there are some things that you probably do, every single day. Brushing your teeth is a simple example. You don’t need to brush your teeth. It’s not something that you “have” to do. Yet you still do it because you know it’s good for you. And by now, it’s likely that brushing your teeth is just something that you do everyday, without thinking about it much.The reason you brush your teeth everyday without thinking much about it is because you have made it a habit. “Habits” are created in our brains through a process called Neuro Plasticity. Basically, when you do something over and over again for a period of time, your brain changes so that it becomes easier to do that thing again in the future. This is what learning really is, and this same principle can be used to help you get in the habit of walking everyday. Get used to planning, because ritual makes habitual. Giving yourself an allocated time to walk everyday is crucial for your success. Let’s go back to the example of brushing your teeth. In all likelihood, you probably do this at the same time everyday, say after breakfast and before bed. It’s this consistency that creates the habit. Doing the same thing at the same time trains your brain to expect that again in the future.Maybe you like the idea of a daily walk but don’t believe you have enough time. You have the same amount of time as every other person – 24 hours a day. You cannot make time but you can manage it. And if you don’t manage to find time for health, you will eventually be forced to find time for illness. Remember those wise words – failure to plan is planning to fail.Establishing the habit is what involves effort – by definition the habit itself is basically effortless. Start thinking of yourself as “an active person.” Daily walking is about avoiding the pitfalls of the sedentary lifestyle. Walking gets you back in the habit of moving again. How can you expect to exercise 3-4 times a week if you can’t even get yourself to walk on those days? Walking is fantastic because it gives you that shift in momentum. After a few months, or even a few weeks, you will begin to hopefully notice a shift in your attitude towards moving your body. Walking reminds you that moving is not something that you “should” or “need” to do but rather something that you want and like to do.Humans are designed to move. In essence, that’s what we do. If you have lost your love for movement, it’s usually not the case that you don’t like it anymore, but rather you have forgotten how fun it can be. Walking is the perfect way to rekindle that connection with yourself, to remind yourself what it means to be human. So, get out into the world and move, you’ll...

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