The neuroscience trick for making new year’s resolutions stick.
[T]hinking positively about yourself, or even just trying to think of your positive qualities makes it easier to change your habits. That’s a cool phenomenon, but what’s the neuroscience behind it?
The first thing you need to know is that bad habits reside in a deep, unconscious region of the brain called the basal ganglia. And the only way to change bad habits is for the prefrontal cortex to override the activity in the basal ganglia to create new habits. Self-affirmation helps change the balance of neural activity.
We know from other studies that thinking happy memories boosts serotonin. Positive self-reflection in general likely has the same effect on increasing serotonin activity. This is important because serotonin is essential for proper functioning of the prefrontal cortex. We also know from other studies that self-reflection activates the medial prefrontal cortex. So the key for changing your bad habits is that self-affirmation boosts the prefrontal cortex’s ability to override the basal ganglia.
So this year, before you come up with a list of all your terrible qualities that you want to change, spend some time reflecting on all the qualities you like about yourself. Have you ever forgiven another person when they have hurt you? Have you ever been considerate of another person’s feelings? Please elaborate.