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Medicine or Malarkey: Can You Reprogram Your Brain?

Feel stuck in a rut? Do you feel like it’s impossible to lose a few excess pounds or stay committed to a new exercise program? Changing old behaviors to new ones can be daunting — is it possible to actually “reprogram” your brain to throw out those old unhealthy habits and start fresh in a new direction?

Read on to understand more about retraining the brain and creating new habits to start feeling better today.

The Brain’s Plasticity

It is widely believed that the fully developed adult brain cannot be changed, and that damage to the brain is permanent, but is it? Modern research by neuroscientists shows that adult brains can be rewired to reverse certain pathophysiologies (the physiology of abnormal states; specifically the functional changes that accompany a particular syndrome or disease) and bypass structural damage. There’s a term to describe the brain’s ability to change in order to improve functioning: neuroplasticity. Those who have developed sensitivity to certain stimuli due to trauma and invisible illnesses have been found to benefit from brain training programs. However, anyone can work toward creating new connections and create healthier brain function and habits. This can benefit those looking to make relatively small changes, such as improving health regimens, eliminating harmful activities like smoking, and changing patterns of undesired thoughts.

Form Healthier Habits

One way to change an old habit is to replace it with a new habit. This starts with becoming more mindful and aware of our actions and thoughts. Look for your triggers. Do feelings of boredom, depression or stress appear to start the craving? It is then possible to see what may have led to those feelings and stop them before they begin. Awareness of our feelings and actions can help with the creation of new and healthier habits.

Other suggestions include:

  • Tuning into our emotions. There are times when unhealthy eating choices are more likely to occur. Having a good cry, going for a walk or picking up the phone for a chat with a friend can stop that urge to reach for food when not actually hungry. Boredom, stress, loneliness or sadness can be addressed and either expressed or alleviated without making an unhealthy or harmful choice.
  • Replace bad habits with new ones. Try new activities. Swap a tried and true method of dealing with stress with something new, such as bike riding or swimming. Continue to do so to associate the new activity with the positive feeling of alleviating stress or boredom. Some persistence is needed to create a new habit so keep at it until it becomes automatic.
  • Use visual cues such as leaving workout clothes out in the morning to initiate the impulse to go to the gym. Prep vegetables and leave them in plain sight to get around that urge for a sugary snack. Make it easy for yourself to stay on track with a new positive behavior.

For some, positive rewards can provide additional motivation. There are many ways to begin developing better habits to improve physical, mental or emotional well-being. A great way to begin the brain retraining process is to get a 360 degree view of your health. CareSpot Urgent Care offers a variety of wellness checks and diagnostic services to help you identify potential health issues and begin developing new, healthier habits.