You’ve heard the saying that practice makes perfect, but have you really thought about its implications? Let’s say you want to learn to play the piano, so you repeatedly practice scales and combinations of notes and keys. Given enough time and practice, your fingers seem to already know what do even before your brain can interpret your actions. We get really good at the things that we practice the most, so much so that many of our behaviours become automatic and almost instinctual. Those things that we practice the most can drastically influence our life, both positively and negatively.
A habit is an automatic, unconscious set of thoughts, behaviors or emotions that result from repetition. When we get used to doing, thinking or feeling certain things it then becomes part of our reality. We become so accustomed to a particular behaviour that our response becomes almost automatic. In the brain, neurons associated with a certain activity function together and form a neural pathway. Through practice or repeated actions, the connections of these neural pathways become established and stronger. Neuroscientist Donald Hebb coined the phrase, “neurons that fire together wire together” to explain that every experience, thought, feeling, and physical sensation triggers thousands of neurons to form a neural network. With continuous practice and repetition, you are, in essence, rewiring your neural pathways.
If your thoughts or behaviours leave you feeling less than ideal, it’s a good idea to take a look at what you have been practicing. What is your response to certain triggers? What emotions are you typically experiencing? If you would like to change any of your behaviours, you first must become aware of what you do and do not want.
Start paying attention to what you want, how you want to feel and how you would like to behave. Those things that you pay attention to are the very things that will shape your experience of your reality. You can choose to flood your brain with stimuli that enhances or prolongs positive emotions by redirecting your focus.
Bringing awareness to how you’re feeling physically can also impact your practiced habits. How you hold and move your body affects your focus and how you feel. There’s a relationship between your brain and your body. Just as there’s an instinctual bodily response to brain activity there’s also a response in the brain from the body. Take a look at how you’re used to holding yourself. Your dominate posture will reflect and have an impact on your focus, emotions and behaviour. When you’re slouched and have your head drooped are you more likely to feel optimistic or pessimistic? The answer is pessimistic, maybe even depressed or defeated. Alternately, when you’re feeling proud and confident you are more likely to be standing tall and upright. The postures that you practice most have a relationship to the way that you experience life. If you want to make a change, make sure that your body is reflecting the change that you want to see.
Are there habits that you would like to replace? Are there emotions that you would like to experience more often? Make it your new habit to spend more time focusing on those things that you do want. Anything that you place your attention on will have an effect on your thoughts, feelings and actions. Practice makes perfect, so start doing, saying and thinking those things that you wish to see more of in your life.
“Your reality is what you practice most.” (Dr. Donald Epstein)
Copyright Dr. Julie Doobay 2017