Many of us repeat similar patterns at the beginning of every New Year: reflect on our year, design and commit to a New Year’s Resolution, keep the change through January (or not even start it). Why does this happen to so many people every year? It’s such a common occurrence, it could almost be considered an annual part of the New Year celebration.
Should we be angry with ourselves for failing? Should we be angry with ourselves for not really trying? Should we be angry with ourselves for forgetting that we even made a New Year’s Resolution as soon as we make it??
Neuroplasticity teaches us: NO!
Why not? How do our brains prioritize resolutions?
To simplify some concepts of neuroscience: let’s think of your New Year’s Resolution as one neural pathway in your brain. One branch among millions in the structure of your brain is that declaration at 11:59pm on December 31st that you were going to, let’s say, actually start your daily meditation practice. Your brain may have even given it an extra pump of juice because you were so focused on the moment and excited about the idea.
So what happens to the idea after that? We have so many thoughts and stories to keep track of, consciously and subconsciously, that our brains systematically prioritize them according to what we’re most likely to access. Our brains determine how important a thought or pattern is by how often we retrieve it.
It’s exactly like autofill on your internet browser. If you went to your county’s library page once 6 months ago but go to Google every day, your internet browser will try to suggest Google because it knows that’s usually where you want to go. Why would it think you wanted to pull up the website (or idea) you went to once a long time ago? It’s going to try to help you be efficient by anticipating your needs based on your typical behavior and pull that website (or thought pattern in this case) up for you.
Consider bookmarks in your internet browser. You can create bookmarks at the top of your internet browser that go to your most frequently-visited websites (email, social media, search engines) so you can get there at the single click of a button. These are like the thoughts you mark as important in your head. Your brain will make the places you visit most often the most accessible.
“Bookmark” your resolution this year!
This means that the more you visit the neural pathway (or thought) of your New Year’s Resolution, the more important your brain will think it is to you! Your brain will “bookmark” it for you and try to suggest it for you any chance it thinks you might want it. Our brains do not differentiate how important a thought is by “shoulds”- but by repeated use.
Any time you enthusiastically think about, excitedly tell someone about, or actually DO your resolution, your brain marks it as more and more important- so more and more retrievable. You can almost trick your brain into making you want to do your resolution more often by “bookmarking” it this year!
Danielle Rachlin, CNSF
Danielle received her Neurosculpting® trainer certification in the original round of NSI graduates at 19 years old. Since then, she has brought Neurosculpting® into the world of college campuses, teaching a recurring quarter-long series on a range of introductory-level classes. Danielle has also produced a ghostwriting collection for the Neurosculpting® Institute during the completion of her Master’s degree in Public Service for Environmental Policy.
Danielle is motivated to spread the content of Neurosculpting® as far as she can because she wants everyone to know the natural processes of their brain so self-improvement is not an uphill battle. She is particularly drawn to introducing the concepts to people that do not already know they are interested in the subject and in making the information accessible to all kinds of people. She has been meditating since childhood and was originally drawn deeply to Neurosculpting® due to its solid and digestible foundation in science.