Great Health Guide
KEEPING UP WITH CHANGE
Easy ways to adapt to change.
IF the thought that everything in your world is changing too fast is making you feel uncomfortable, it’s time to tap into how your brain is designed to help you adapt and thrive.
Change itself is not the problem, but keeping up with change can be, since it is the volume and velocity of change that’s causing us to feel stressed, making it harder to think straight or to know if we’re dealing with change in the right way. The brain loves familiarity, because it makes us feel safe. It feels nice to be cocooned under a warm blanket of knowing this is the way our world works.
There’s just one problem, staying in the status quo means you can get left behind when it comes to adopting to new technologies or new ways of thinking.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN ABOUT HOW THE BRAIN DEALS WITH CHANGE?
Change is no drama when it’s small, under our control and it’s something we desire such as a holiday, a new relationship or new home.
It gets hard when the change is imposed, and you’re not convinced you want it. Here, the brain sees change as a potential threat, responding in the same way as our ancestors did when confronted by the rustling of the grass which might be either the wind or a sabre tooth tiger looking for dinner.
Discover how your brain is designed to help you adapt & thrive.
Our reaction to that threat is immediate and we prepare to take flight, put up a fight or become frozen to the spot.
Once the immediate threat has disappeared, the body seeks to return to safety mode. But if you are facing multiple points of change your body and brain never gets a chance to switch off the stress response.
WELCOME TO YOUR PLASTIC BRAIN.
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to rewire itself in response to changes in the environment through the formation of new and strengthening of existing synaptic connections between existing brain cells. This facilitates new learning, formats memory and embeds habits.
This plasticity is freely available to us throughout our lives, meaning we are always capable of upskilling, upgrading and rewiring our neural circuitry and thus, we are keeping up with change.
HOW THE BRAIN CAN HELP US MAKE THE CHANGE WE WANT: 1. Begin with why
If your intention is to quit smoking, drop a dress size or give up Facebook for three months, it’s good to know what your goal is, but also why you want it.
Getting healthy and fit sounds very virtuous but isn’t compelling to your brain. You need to find the REAL reason you want that change; is it more confidence, higher selfesteem or time to spend with your kids?
2. Paint a picture
As clever as your brain is, it’s hopeless when it comes to future planning or dealing with abstract ideas. This is why painting a mental picture of yourself having achieved the desired change can help to convince your brain the change isn’t only possible, but you’ve done it already!
3. Embed the healthy habit
We are creatures of habit because it saves the brain-conscious energy.
Habits operate at a subconscious level, so unless we bring them to our conscious awareness it’s tough to override the old way of doing and implement the new. Your brain must be cleared and repeat the new way of working to establish and strengthen that new neural pathway that eventually becomes the brain’s default pathway.
How long does it take to create a new habit? That depends on the complexity of the habit and how determined you are to make it happen! Realistically it could be anywhere between a week and a year. We spend months or years creating our habits, so installing a new one takes time, and we need to expect a few hiccups along the way.
4. Lower the bar
Big changes can easily overwhelm the brain so start low with one small change at a time and enjoy the positive ripple effect that can follow. Success is highly motivating so break down the task into easily digestible bites and enjoy the journey.
5. Get support
Change can feel lonely so share your vision and encourage others to support you in your quest. This will boost motivation and of course it’s always nicer to share those celebratory dopamine cupcakes of success with friends.
6. Accept failure
Some change doesn’t work out and that’s OK. Accepting that some change will fail reduces our fear of failure and risk aversion and supports greater possibility thinking.
7. Change isn’t inevitable in everything
While there is a lot changing in our lives there are some things that hold constant. Love, tenacity, resilience and strong positive relationships can all help you to effectively navigate those muddy waters of change.
8. Change deserves to be led
Taking the lead is more effective than trying to manage change. When change is normal, expected and desired, your brain will work with you to make it happen.
Change is all about evolution and personal growth, which is why choosing to embed new habits that will support you and knowing how your brain can trick you into feeling afraid will keep you more change agile. So by keeping up with change, you can always adapt and thrive.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a Medical Practitioner and Board-Certified Lifestyle Physician specialising in brain health and mental performance. Jenny’s approach to overcoming life’s challenges is based on practical neuroscience which enables people to understand their thoughts and actions leading to effective behavioural change. Jenny is the author of Smarter,
Sharper Thinking (Wiley) and may be contacted via her website.