Many people used to think that reaching a certain age meant your brain stopped evolving. That’s where the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” comes from.
In fact, every time we learn a new skill, our brain adapts. It can change in size and structure to accommodate the new things we learn. Our brain evolves.
Look at it this way. By performing certain actions or habits, you can change the way your mind operates.
In this article, I’ll share three habits that have the power to rewire your brain.
1. Focusing on what you control
You might not think this is a habit, but it really is. Our default mode is to get worked up about the things we don’t control: Politics, wars, weather, traffic, other people’s reactions.
You don’t have to react to that as the Stoic philosopher Epictetus said:
“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.”
As you go through life, keep reminding yourself, “I don’t control this situation,” for everything you face. Then, force yourself to focus on what you do control.
If you work for a company that’s in a dire financial situation, focus more on developing your skills, maintaining your network, and prepare yourself for doing new job interviews.
If you’re a business owner and you worry about an imminent recession, direct your energy toward building new products or services that have lower costs and higher margins.
Remember that most of our stressors are caused by our own minds. We give external events way too much time and attention. It’s simply not worth it.
2. Meditate and be present
The cortex is among the default mode network which is a region of the brain that activates when the mind is wandering or ruminating.
When you meditate, you gain better control of your thoughts. That’s what you’re after.
This means you don’t have to dwell on negative thinking patterns that limit your potential and happiness. But mindfulness meditation aside, the key to a better mind understanding how most of our concerns are internal.
When you’re brushing your teeth, cooking dinner, or even doing important work: What do you often think about?
People tend to be lost in their own thoughts. They do many things by simply going through the motions. Our mind likes to wander and ruminate. And while these can be helpful for our creativity, they’re not good when done too much.
Folks who are always lost in thought are not living in the present. They’re either stuck in the past, where they regret things. Or in the future, where they worry about potential problems.
When you regularly meditate, you avoid being lost in thought.
Meditation is as simple as taking five really slow breaths for 1 minute. It will help you to calm down, and be present.
3. Exercise daily
This helps rewire your brain in a positive way. In fact, when you maintain a level of exercise while learning a new skill, your enhanced brain is likely going to learn at an improved pace.
The physician, John Ratey, explored how the body and mind connect in his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:
“Getting older is unavoidable, but falling apart is not… Today, of course, there’s no need to forage and hunt to survive. Yet our genes are coded for this activity, and our brains are meant to direct it. Take that activity away, and you’re disrupting a delicate biological balance that has been fine-tuned over half a million years. Quite simply, we need to engage our endurance metabolism to keep our bodies and brains in optimum condition.”
Imagine how our ancestors moved in the past: They were hunters and gatherers. Which means they walked and moved a lot. Then they would sprint when prey is nearby.
Ratey says it can be healthy for us to exercise with the same rhythm. Take daily walks. Run a couple of times a week. Then sprint whenever we can.
Also, moving our body feels good. Think about a time you did a great work out. How did you feel? I bet you were jacked up. That’s because having a great workout session boosts your dopamine, or “happy hormones.”
Small habits, big return
Look, it’s easy to fall back in your normal routines. You keep doing the same thing year in year out. And before you know it, you’ve wasted a decade.
To avoid that, focus on the smallest set of actions you can do today: Your habits. The way you show up in life. Your daily rituals. Not only will this help you reach your goals, but it will also make a positive impact on the world around you and the people closest to you.
When it comes to making an impact, start small and then just wait for big results.