Be Your Best Self with These 5 Proven Neurohacks
Magazine / Be Your Best Self with These 5 Proven Neurohacks

Be Your Best Self with These 5 Proven Neurohacks

Book Bites Happiness Science
Be Your Best Self with These 5 Proven Neurohacks

Nicole Vignola is a neuroscientist, corporate consultant, and speaker committed to making neuroscience tangible for laymen and experts alike. Through her group and one-on-one coaching, she helps individuals improve their mental capacity and acuity by teaching best practices for healthy cognitive habits.

Below, Nicole shares five key insights from her new book, Rewire: Break the Cycle, Alter Your Thoughts and Create Lasting Change (Your Neurotoolkit for Everyday Life). Listen to the audio version—read by Nicole herself—in the Next Big Idea App.

Rewire Nicole Vignola Next Big Idea Club

1. Your brain has a negativity bias.

Negative emotions elicit a much larger response in the brain than positive ones, meaning that we tend to pay more attention to bad things and overlook the good ones, probably as a result of evolution. This means that sometimes, we tend to dwell on the negative and fail to see our accomplishments.

These negative biases can show up as stories we tell ourselves, like, It won’t work out for me. I’m fat and ugly. I am not unique. I am not smart enough. Or they can show up as a behavior, for example, you always come home to recount the malevolent and unfortunate events of the day in a melodramatic and embellishing tone, making it sound as if your day was worse than what it was.

Neuroscience studies support that we tend to give more weight and attention to negative experiences and emotions and also that the brain registers negative stimuli more easily than positive events. The good news is that we can change this. Neuroplasticity is the ability of your brain to reorganize itself, create new pathways, and dismantle habits and behaviors that are no longer serving you. Rewire equips you with the tools to ditch the negative.

2. How to rewire your subconscious.

It is estimated that the majority of your brain (around 90-95 percent) is subconscious, and it’s driving your everyday actions and decisions. Have you ever said you were going to do something on a Monday, and then by Friday you have forgotten that you wanted even to try? It’s not you; it’s your brain. Your brain will revert to mental shortcuts called mental heuristics whenever possible.

This is because your brain tries to be efficient and save energy for more cognitively demanding tasks. You don’t think about how you brush your teeth or make your coffee; you do it without thought. This is a positive because if you had to pay attention to every single thing you did all the time, you would be exhausted by lunchtime. However, this means that sometimes it can feel hard to adopt new habits, but by understanding the neuroscience of how your brain creates new pathways and the neurobiological prerequisites to make plastic change, you’re better equipped on a path for change.

“Even five minutes of repetition can help maintain the thing you are trying to change in your conscious mind and lay down the foundations for a new path.”

Fundamentally, your brain requires attention and repetition to make changes. Sometimes, we think that if we can’t commit to something for an hour a day, it’s not worth pursuing, but even five minutes of repetition can help maintain the thing you are trying to change in your conscious mind and lay down the foundations for a new path. Neurons are responsible for communicating information in our brain. The more we repeat something, the stronger the communication pathways become—like a small footpath that turns into a dirt road that eventually becomes a tarmac highway.

3. The power of your thoughts.

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you knew how powerful your thoughts were, you’d never think a negative thought again?” I want you to imagine that it’s a hot summer day, and you’re making lemonade. You grab a handful of shiny lemons from the fridge; they’re cold, bright yellow, and waxy. You cut into one, and the juice pours out. You begin to squeeze it, releasing a burst of zesty fragrance. Something compels you to take a big bite, and your teeth wrap around the flesh, which is so juicy that it runs down your chin. Did you salivate? If you did, you just evoked a physiological mouth-watering response as if it were right before you. This shows us how important our thoughts are. We can change our physiological response according to what we’re thinking. So, if you’re perpetuating a negative narrative about yourself, you’re reinforcing these pathways in your brain and strengthening these beliefs.

Neuroscience studies show that we can create neuroplasticity through thought alone. Our thoughts are extremely powerful, and what we perpetuate in our heads becomes a reality. We can use this knowledge to our advantage. Research shows that mental imagery stimulates the same brain regions as when we physically perform the same movements and actions. Mentally rehearsing your performance with repetition means that the actions become habituated in your mind. If you’ve already imagined executing something, then it will be easier to execute it later because you’ve created a blueprint for new pathways to form.

4. Dopamine doesn’t care about your happiness, dopamine wants more.

Have you ever thought to yourself that as soon as you get to place B, you will be happy? When I asked my social media community, the most common themes were weight loss, work or academic accomplishments, and money. There were other examples, too, like gaining Instagram followers or buying a first house. Some were professional athletes who never felt satisfied with any of their wins. The underlying theme is that whenever they got what they thought they wanted, they were underwhelmed and dissatisfied.

The thing is, that’s dopamine. Dopamine doesn’t want you to be happy. Dopamine wants you to have more. It’s always on to the next thing. So, if you’re relying on being happy after you get what you want, after you achieve your goals, after you get the promotion, then you will always be chasing happiness. Your happiness has to be now.

“Dopamine doesn’t want you to be happy.”

Dopamine isn’t the chemical of pleasure; it’s the chemical that motivates us in pursuit of pleasure. It helps reinforce pleasurable experiences by linking them to the desire of wanting to do them again, knowing they’ll make you feel good. Studies show that when we achieve a goal, dopamine levels actually drop. This is because dopamine is responsible for anticipating and driving you towards a reward. To maintain dopamine balance and avoid overstimulation, dopamine drops quickly after reaching your goal.

Therefore, if you are relying on reaching your goals to finally be happy, you will always be chasing that feeling. Real pleasure comes from the journey, not the destination. The only race is against yourself. Live easy in the moment. You won’t get it again.

5. The neuroscience of growth mindset and mental resilience.

The brain is a remarkable piece of machinery that uses information from previous experiences to better equip for future occurrences. Every failure and downfall updates our brain’s software with more data points to communicate what we should or shouldn’t do to get a better outcome next time. Failure is information for the brain.

When we have a fixed mindset, we attach our identity to the outcome. Meaning that if we fail at something, we begin to believe that it’s a direct indicator of our self-worth. Individuals with a growth mindset, on the other hand, understand that fear and failure are part of the process.

Neuroscience shows that we can increase the size of the area of the brain responsible for growth mindsets. Deep within the layers of the cerebral cortex, lodged between the two hemispheres, right behind the frontal cortex, is a worm-shaped structure called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and scientists have shown that this area becomes more active when we adopt a growth mindset. In an experiment, teachers told their students they were very smart. Later, when the students were asked to select problems to solve, they favored fewer challenging ones for fear that it would jeopardize their beliefs about being smart. They chose problems that would reinforce their beliefs and allow them to continue demonstrating good performance. Other students who were congratulated for their efforts demonstrated a greater ability to choose difficult problems because they didn’t fear that they would fail. They knew that even if they failed, it was a learning opportunity.

Fear and failure never disappear, but we can learn how to deal with them better. Over time, we can increase our mental resilience to withstand more stress and fear.

To listen to the audio version read by author Nicole Vignola, download the Next Big Idea App today:

Listen to key insights in the next big idea app

the Next Big Idea App

app-store play-market

Also in Magazine