Your brain falls into habits just like you do.
Just like you might always put your shoes on in a particular order, your brain gets used to thinking in certain ways - especially when it’s in certain environments.
For example, when you’re at your desk at work, your brain is likely to think through challenges in the same way it always does when you're in the office. The same sounds, same lighting, same playlist all push your brain to go with the familiar.
The good news is, your brain continues to grow throughout adulthood and it’s entirely possible to snap out of bad habits, or to think about problems in a new and creative way.
Scientists call this concept Neuroplasticity (or neural plasticity or brain plasticity). Neuroplasticity is the capacity of the brain to evolve and change throughout an individual’s life.
Change your mind
The trick to changing the way your brain thinks is novelty.
The human brain loves novelty. When you’re presented with something new and exciting, your brain releases the chemical dopamine - the ‘feel good’ hormone that accompanies things like eating your favorite foods, and even doing something kind for a stranger.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang, a brain will make the most of a rest or vacation when it experiences something new. With new sights, sounds, smells, and activities, you’re helping your brain explore and energize with new pathways.
A chance of scene is also good for breaking bad habits.
In a widely cited study from 2005, researchers discovered that students who transferred to another college were more likely to change their daily habits than students who remained at the same place.
“Environmental cues are essential when it comes to habit formation, in part because the brain is excellent at connecting an environment with a specific situation,” explains Ralph Ryback, M.D., in an article for Psychology Today.
In an interview with NPR, Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit says:
"If you want to quit smoking, you should stop smoking while you're on a vacation — because all your old cues and all your old rewards aren't there anymore. So you have this ability to form a new pattern and hopefully be able to carry it over into your life."
If you don’t have a vacation scheduled any time soon, changing your routine at home can be just as effective. Why not try walking a new way home while thinking through a problem or working from a cafe when you’re feeling unproductive in the office? Your brain should do the hard work!