The Neuroscience Behind Change

It is highly evident that everything we do in life takes time. This is even more true when it comes to making changes, be they health, diet, relationship or skill based. But why is it some things are easier to change and how long does it actually take a change to stick?

Let us explore time frame first. There are many opposing theories as to the length of time required for a change to stick, let us refer to these changes as habits now. A common number agreed upon is about sixty six days meaning an applied change must be repeated for sixty six days before they become routine. This means, for example, that the decision to go to the gym will only start to feel natural after roughly sixty six days.

Some changes take less time to become habitual and routine, unfortunately they are the negative changes some people introduce into their lives such as smoking or drug use – the shortened length of time is due to the change in the brain chemical composition when partaking of these substances.

Now we move onto the concept of how a change actually becomes a routine. The human brain is the product of evolution through the centuries and it is an organ that continues to evolve. This is the idea of neuroplasticity which essentially outlines that the brain is constantly creating new pathways in the brain depending on the habits we do daily. Think back to when you first started driving – you were much more aware (and likely tense) of the streets you needed to turn on to get home but now you are basically able to get home without a second thought; it is a practical and metaphoric example of neuroplasticity.

Think of a new dirt road. The first time you drive on it can be difficult because there are no tracks however what would happen if you drove down the same dirt road everyday for a year? The tires from you car will have indented a pathway in the dirt making it much easier to traverse.

Change can be difficult at first especially when we do not see results however constant application of a habit or skill will in time make it second nature. This is one way that some theorise Acupuncture works. It generally takes between three to five sessions to notice a significant difference from a treatment but as acupuncture works on the root of the problem (as opposed to the branch) – once the pathway has been created, it will remain steady (lifestyle factor aside).

As the old Chinese proverb states “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now.” If you have a habit you want to introduce or one you want to break – the time fo change is now.

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