How are you?

If you are like most people, myself included, you will say ‘fine’ and then carry on not thinking too much about the question. It is a social greeting, no big deal… right?

But what if we could create space each day to reflect:

  • What we enjoyed doing

  • What went well/not so well, and

  • If we had time to work on those goals/ideas that matter to us.

What if you could become more aware of the ‘why’ you are doing certain activities and not others each day? Instead of responding on auto-pilot to ‘get through the day’.

What do you think you would do differently, if anything?

Most recently, I read a book titled The Source by Tara Swart, describing neuroplasticity in the brain and how the brain can rewire itself if you override certain patterns of behaviour with new behaviors.

It is quite fascinating!

And I think it connects to this blog of aging well, as it is never too late to change my automatic pilot and integrate positive wellness habits into my neural networks.

Using Neuroplasticity to Change Your Habits

In the last 10 years researchers discovered new insights into the neuroplasticity of the brain and this research has debunked the old theory that your brain is set in stone by the time you are 25.

The old adage of, it is never too late to change, is true!

BBC produced a short clip on neuroplasticity here, if you would care to watch: (It is about 6 minutes)

Every thought you think and feeling you feel, strengthens the circuitry in your brain known as your neural pathways.  Neural pathways are the basis of your habits of thinking, feeling, and acting. They are what you believe to be true and why you do what you do.[1]

For example, if you consciously focus on exercising four times a week by reviewing your goals daily, talking to others for support, visualizing your success, getting to bed early, and meeting with a fitness trainer weekly, you rewire your new habit of exercise.[2]

However, if you don’t consciously direct your mind’s attention onto your exercise goal, you will find your strongest existing patterns of, for example, sleeping-in or de-stressing by sitting in front of a screen, will run on autopilot. Existing and often undesired automatic habits drive your brain, body, and behavior. Nevertheless, over time and under the right conditions, you can change old habits.[3]

Stress Disrupts New Behaviours You Are Trying to Achieve

Stress is a major saboteur of healthy neural plasticity. In its true-to-form plastic nature, the brain changes into what it’s most influenced by. The repetition and emotional intensity of the stress response easily overrides feeble attempts at positivity and the changes you are trying to implement.[4]

For example, in the past year, I have been trying to eat healthy, drink less alcohol and exercise more. But let’s say, I have stressful day, in that the client does not like the feedback I have given and I have an argument with one of my sisters. My first impulse is to have a drink to calm my anxiety. The stress response dissolves my resolution and energy to keep to my plan of healthy living.

In this instance, I need to find an alternative solution to reduce my anxiety and rewire my default position. And by catching myself each time in a stress reaction is first being aware and then doing something different that also makes me feel good. This reduces the strength of the existing neural pathway.

And the viola … I am starting to rewire the brain.

It could be a walk, phoning a friend, reading inspirational information, etc. But it really needs to be something you enjoy.

TIPS on Rewiring Your Brain[5]

1. Positive Emotion

A thought without intense emotion and feeling has no meaning, no value, and no real power to effectively engage your neural pathways. Intensity of emotion and feeling is required to take an experience and make it a solidified habit. The more emotion you engage, the more neurons you activate to form well-worn pathways. Emotions and feelings act as the glue that binds you to experiences.

PRACTICE: Do something everyday that you enjoy. While you are engaged in this good feeling activity, focus on the feelings of achieving your goals and intentions.

Hiking in Cornwall, UK, with Arie.

2. Repetition and Practice

Neural pathways are strengthened into habits through the repetition and practice of thinking, feeling and acting.

Note: This works for both good and bad habits, so I really need to pay attention and catch myself on the not so good responses or habits. This is not always easy and I make many mistakes, but I try to keep going and start again when I revert to an old habit.

PRACTICE: Start your morning passionately declaring aloud your goals for the day. Declarations send the power of your subconscious mind on a mission to find solutions to fulfill your goals.

Note: I would also say, ‘add the why’ to the statement. For example, ‘I will do strength-training today as I want to be able to hike and travel the world well into my 80’s’.

I do not passionately declare my goals each day, but I am not opposed to trying it. I think it might be a bit too much for ‘A’, 😉.

3. Visualization

Office Inspirational Vision Board.

Visualization is almost as powerful as the real thing given your brain cannot tell the difference between something real or imagined. Consequently, whether you are reminiscing about the past, thinking about the present or anticipating the future you are strengthening the neural networks associated with whatever you are thinking about. The most important part of using visualization to strengthen healthy habits is to engage your emotion. Emotion provides the fuel to enlist more neural power for creating powerful neural networks.

PRACTICE: Spend 10-15 minutes per day visualizing yourself achieving your goals. This should be so vivid, dynamic and pleasing that it easily engages positive emotion.

Note: I made a vision board of how I want to live as something inspirational to look at in my office.

Not sure if it made an impact on me, but I enjoyed flipping through magazines and cutting out words (or pictures) that I was attracted to in creating the board. It was a fun experience!

4. Meditation

Mediation is the process of relaxing the body and quieting the mind. In order to tap into the benefits of neural plasticity you have to disengage the stress response and stimulate the relaxation response. When you are stressed, your brain rigidly defers to the strongest neural pathways out of survival and the path of least resistance.

PRACTICE: Spend 10 minutes each day sitting still while focusing on your in-breath and out-breath. Retrieve your mind anytime it wanders onto anything but your breath.

Note: I have tried at various times to do this and it hasn’t stuck. But what I have found to work, is journaling and exercising with either running or walking.

One reflection exercise that I have used since 2020 (beginning of the pandemic) is to write each morning in a journal. I write about the weather, what happened in the previous day, my feelings if I am upset. At the end, I write:

  • 3 things that I am grateful for,
  • what I am letting go of and
  • what my intention is for the day.

I find if I get things out of my head and on to paper it really helps my mood, focuses my intention for the day and gives me energy.

Time Is Precious

Time passes so quickly and my perception of this, as I accelerate towards 60 years on this planet, is that I need and want to live the best life possible. So, if I can become more aware of my habits and then shift to more healthy ones, and make it a priority, (focused attention) I will feel better, gain energy and live hopefully with my faculties and mobility into old age.

Hiking in Wales, April 2024

Rewiring my brain for healthy habits could be key!

What do you think? If, you have comments or thoughts on any of the tips listed, I would love to hear your feedback.

Take care and live well,

[1] Retrieved from

[2] Op. Cit.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

How to Rewire Your Brain to Age Well
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