6 ways to rewire your brain to be the best version of yourself
Are you living your best life?
Ever heard the saying, “Smile and the world smiles with you”? If you have brushed it off, you may want to reconsider, because that statement may have its basis in science. Dr Mehak Nagpal, psychiatrist and mental health expert, insists that it’s the small things you can change in your day-to-day life that rewire your brain in a positive way.
Whether it’s becoming a more attentive partner or battling negativity that seems to have overtaken your life — or even if you’re someone who just wishes to get healthy and get over your tendency to binge eat, these simple habits could help you change your life around. “People are predominantly reward-driven, everything we do is seen in terms of the pleasure it gives us. But constantly indulging could impact your long-term mental health,” says Nagpal.
6 ways to rewire your brain:
No, we’re not saying you can trick your brain into thinking broccoli tastes like chocolate. But we are saying that you can program it to appreciate the healthier things in life just as much.
Problem: Binge eating, overeating and lack of self-control.
The trick: Saying ‘no’
Why it works: If you’re in the habit of eating a chocolate after your meal or a cold drink with it, you may want to stop, at least for a while. “Each time you say ‘no’ to yourself, you’re bypassing those neurons which stimulate your pleasure senses to create a pattern of craving.” Each ‘no’ may sound small, but it’s re-wiring you to be a more disciplined eater.
Many couples go through dry spells where intimacy is lacking. It’s normal, but ignoring these periods is not. Like anything else, your relationship has to be constantly tuned to work properly.
The problem: A dry spell
The trick: Hugging or touching
Why it works: If you’re not quite ready to have sex with your partner or even talk it out with them, just try to initiate small acts of intimacy instead. “Hugging, touching and other forms of intimacy boost dopamine and oxytocin,” explains the good doctor, recommending that you avoid turning to porn instead. “The brain now knows that satisfaction is readily available and doesn’t feel the need to work for it. So the next time you feel a craving for intimacy, rather than wanting to put in the effort with your partner, you would seek instant gratification.” Each time you do this, you move further away from your partner, whereas each touch or hug brings you marginally closer.
Thanks to countless distractions all around us, paying attention for extended periods of time is something that evades most people, especially the younger generation.
The problem: Attention span/ ADHD
The trick: Play a game like Sudoku
Why it works: Playing a game may sound silly, but it’s commonly used in treating kids with ADHD. Engaging in activities decrease restlessness. Being fully immersed in trying to solve a problem delays impulses in the long-term. "In adults, ADHD or an attention deficit expresses itself as novelty experiences or substance abuse." While medication is often used in treating adults, by correctly channeling this energy — whether through setting physical or mental goals — one can train their brain to focus on a new purpose.
Very often we lack motivation to achieve the goals we set for ourselves, which only demotivates us further.
The trick: Short-term goals
Why it works: While your long-term goals may be grander, set yourself smaller daily goals that are easier to achieve. "By saying ‘I will work out three times this week’ instead of saying ‘I will lose 40 kgs in two months’, you are already moving in the right direction,” says Dr Nagpal. "Setting big goals that are often too difficult to achieve means results in you judging yourself harshly. This negative motivation makes you more likely to fail. Small short-term goals let you check off your progress in real time and help develop confidence, which in turn helps with motivation.”
By using your brain a certain way, you can ensure that it functions to the best of its abilities, for longer.
The problem: Depression, dementia
The trick: learn something new
Why it works: Learn something, anything. A language, an instrument, a sport. “Learning something exercises allows neurocircuits to form new impulses that fire from each neuron.” Why is that important? It forges new pathways and the more you practice, the more ‘new links’ you create.
We all feel sad, but when we start experiencing all-consuming negative emotions for extended periods of time, we start to do ourselves harm.
The problem: Negative thinking
The trick: Smile more
Why it works: It's proven that by smiling for 15 minutes each day, you can actually trick your brain into feeling happier. The reason Dr Nagpal tells us is because by acting positive, your brain starts computing things as positive. "As your emotions influence your behaviour, the reverse is also true." So if you start your day off on a bad note, you are more likely to carry that negativity until you go to bed at night.