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Orla McLoughlin and Marianne Wall are founders and directors of Smart Psychology, helping people to overcome difficulties in their lives through workshops, courses and one-to-one counselling. They’ve teamed up with The Cork News for a series of useful guides to your mind; this week: Changing your habits!

“I’ll never change”, sound familiar? The good news is you can physically change your brain to make it do what you want.

Think of pathways in a forest. They start off small but the more you walk them, the more worn they become and the easier they are to follow. Each time you return you automatically take that route because it is well worn and you don’t have to think about where you’re going.

Our brains are the same. Through experience we create and hard–wire certain neural pathways by repeating the same ways of thinking, feeling and acting. Moved house but found yourself accidently going the old route home? This automatic pathway was created by you thinking and doing the same thing over and over.

Neural pathways can sometimes be unhealthy. Thankfully, just like tracks in a forest, you can create new pathways in your brain to break old habits, to think, act and feel differently. The key is to repeat them so that in time you take new paths automatically without having to think about them. Here are some tips:

  • Rather than thinking negatively try to think of something neutral or positive
  • If you are critical of yourself think of one nice thing about yourself
  • Instead of reaching for a can of fizzy cola, have a glass of water
  • Each day, write down three things you are grateful for
  • Experience new things, people and places to give your brain new material to work with