by Suzie Doscher
Just as life is constantly changing, the brain is constantly changing. It is through repetition that thinking patterns, and consequently behaviour patterns can be shifted, tweaked, changed or completely replaced with more positive empowering ones.
Through practice and repetition neuroscience has shown the brain can be rewired
This is fantastic news especially for anybody wishing to improve the quality of their life for this change process. Making, and more importantly sustaining, any changes in thinking or in behaviour patterns, would be very difficult, if not impossible, without this scientific truth. Knowing this offers coaching clients not only motivation but also confidence to continue on the path to 'change', which sometimes can be a difficult one.
Over the last few decades, studies in neuroscience have shown the 'default network' you were born with can be changed. This happens by creating new neural pathways. The 'default network' ensures your survival by detecting and responding to threats, such as a tiger about to eat you! The 'default network' generates a 'fight or flight' response to increase the odds of survival. However it can become hypersensitive, interfering with your ability to experience the present moment in a more open and relaxed manner. The production of neurochemical and molecular changes in the cells known as neurons is how the changes in the brain occur. While going through the process of learning how to think / do or behave differently new neurons are being produced. Neurons are messengers communicating by transmitting electrical signals.
Creating new neural networks requires actions
Thoughts generate a chemical reaction in the brain. The same chemical reaction takes place every time you think the same thought - be it a negative one or a positive one. A person has trillions of brain cells, resulting in thousands of these chemical reactions. In order to successfully make a change in a thought pattern, and ultimately a behaviour pattern, you have to activate as many of these pathways as possible given that they work synergistically. One pathway alone is not enough to successfully rewire your brain.
Repetitive positive thoughts change your physical brain
The goal of coaching is to align your beliefs, feelings, vision, and actions with who you are and your goals. Time has to be allowed for practice and repetition to successfully re-frame / replace a negative thought with a positive empowering one. Just like exercise, this requires repetition to reinforce new learning. Thoughts and feelings have to align. In other words, you will not succeed to create new pathways by eating lots of sweets while telling yourself you are fit and healthy.
What this means for coaching
If you are of the mindset that working with a coach is the way to go person this already shows potential for improvement. Successful coaching creates a healthy brain environment promoting positive thought and positive activity.
Once the goal of the coaching is, not only defined and clear, but also realistic the coach will use a variety of tools to activate the client's internal resources and life skills. Within this phase, the rewiring can already begin. Bad thought patterns and habits are explored, examined and re-framed/replaced. Making sure the goal has a realistic time frame will support the feeling of success. Feeling success supports creating positive feedback to the brain, this motivates you to keep going. The more changes made, the more the brain is rewired, by having formed new neural pathways.
It is exciting to be on the path of change with clients. I compare it to helping them heal ‘wings that have been clipped.’ With coaching they learn to fly freely again.
By Suzie Doscher PSC
A positive event activates the release of dopamine; creating the effect of making you feel pleasure, feel good and positive. Stress depletes the levels of dopamine, which can lead to a deficiency. Lack motivation is one of the symptoms of this deficiency.
Dopamine is one of the four key neurotransmitters helping the transmission of signals in the brain. Neurotransmitters influence behaviour in daily life. The neurotransmitter, dopamine, offers feelings of reward, attention, focus -- and therefore motivation.
How to increase dopamine levels?
There are both unhealthy and healthy ways to increase dopamine. Unhealthy ways to increase dopamine can be gateways to self-destruction and addictions. The abuse of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, drugs, shopping, gaming, sex, power and gambling can be used to compensate this lack of a natural dopamine release in order to get ‘the high.’
Positive life /’soft skills’ offer a healthy release of this ‘happy hormone’. Physical exercise increases dopamine levels as does meditation and eating the foods that release dopamine and keep the intestinal flora balanced. (what foods are these?) Research shows that even the health of your intestinal flora impacts the production of neurotransmitters. It helps when you have the skills to handle the ups and downs of life.
Keeping the system balanced is important for a balanced life.
Fear activates a stress response in the body. When this happens, the emotional build-up causes a depletion in cognitive. Emotions overpower thinking and if a safer, calmer environment is not found, the release of dopamine will be vastly limited. This can be a factor at work when leaders believe in motivating with fear. Fear has the opposite effect!
It is clear that there are many benefits in creating consistency to assure a healthy stream of dopamine. Some of those benefits are feeling more alive, focused, productive, and motivated.
Dopamine is in charge of the reward system in the brain.
This reward system is essential for the learning process, particularly when learning new things or changing old habits. Learning requires positive feedback and reinforcement. Dopamine is responsible for:
With a dopamine deficiency you might experience the following:
What to do
A Practical Handbook