Neuroplasticity can help solve a lot of problems, but it can also create problems! Some patterns or habits of thinking, feeling or responding can start off as helpful but because of stress and neuroplasticity become rigid, harder to change, or simply less helpful over time. Patterns or habits such as overworking, avoiding certain things, irritability, or always putting the needs of others before your own can become “set in stone”. Because these patterns have happened thousands of times, they may feel like “this is the truth “or “this is who I am”.
But all patterns and habits are neuroplastic and so can be softened, changed, or even eliminated if that is what we want. To modify any habit, we need commitment, but with persistence we will ultimately be successful!
Let’s start by identifying some common mental patterns and habits that may start off innocently but take on a life of their own and cause problems:
Common mental habits or patterns:
- worry or rumination
- problem solving orientation, including problems that haven’t occurred yet
- wishing things were different
- idealising others or yourself
- needing to control how others see you
- rigid or black and white dogmatic thinking
- unexamined beliefs eg
- believing things because you were told them as a child (introjects)
- believing things because you wanted them to be true (magical thinking)
- believing things because someone you liked or looked up to believed it
- automatic advice giving
- allowing the mind to be busy all the time
- avoidance eg spending excessive time in a fantasy world or day dreaming
- harsh self-attack or self-criticism
- fuzzy or magical thinking instead of clear thinking when faced with problems
- justifying or defending habits that aren’t good for you!
- other mental patterns or habits not listed above, that in some way cause pain, stuckness or distress to yourself or others.
Looking at the list of mental patterns, do any stand out for you?
What sort of commitment or small steps would it take to soften or change this pattern?
How long would you have to persist with new patterns for them to become established?
I would love to hear from you if you are trying to change habits or patterns now.