YOU can rewire your brain to face your challenges of 2019 with increased confidence, says author and kindness campaigner, David R. Hamilton PhD. Just try neuroplasticity to help put your New Year’s resolutions into action.
In many ways the brain can’t distinguish between whether you’re actually doing something or simply imagining yourself doing it. In some research conducted by Rascuel-Leone in 1995, volunteers repetitively played a series of piano notes over five days. They had their brains scanned each day, and the brain region connected to the finger muscles had grown. This is called neuroplasticity. Then a separate group of volunteers just imagined playing the notes over the five days and when they had their brains scanned, the same region had grown to the same extent. To the brain, playing the piano notes and imagining playing them was much the same thing.
Further research in Morewedge in 2010 showed the exact same effect with eating. Volunteers imagined eating sweets and the brain processed this imagined eating as if it were the real thing. When they were later given the opportunity to eat the sweets, they ate less than those who hadn’t imagined it. Their brains had decided they had already eaten more than enough.
You can apply this brain hack to almost any area of your life. Unlike conventional methods, where you just visualise the end product, you instead visualise being the person you want to be, or doing the thing you want to do. In other words, that which gets you to the end result. The key is to imagine yourself as the kind of person you want to become, acting in the way you would act if you were that person.
For example, if you wanted to be more confident, you would imagine how you would act if you were that person, imagining yourself being confident in a variety of situations, speaking confidently to particular people. The hack is that as you do this, your brain actually wires in that state of being through neuroplasticity. The only real challenge is making the visualisation practice consistent. Just like training to run a 10K race, running once around the block isn’t going to get you into shape. You have to put the effort in.
The key to this technique is repetition. It’s the only way to create neuroplasticity in the brain. Here’s how to get started:
1 What’s your goal? What do you want to be doing, or what kind of person do you want to be? Write down details of what you decide.
2 Set aside five minutes a day for the next three weeks and spend that time visualising yourself being that person or doing that thing.
3 During this five minutes, give your attention to how you are right now. The way you are moving, holding your body, speaking. It’s OK to visualise an end result, but mainly focus on being what you need to be to achieve that end result.
4 If your visualisation only takes a couple of minutes, repeat it so that you use the full five minutes, or else visualise a second scenario.
This article first appeared in Soul & Spirit magazine (January 2019). For more spiritual inspiration and guidance, visit soulandspiritmagazine.com