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Don’t Slouch: Building New Thinking Habits

Thinking – both what we think and how we think – is shaped by experience and becomes habitual. Pay attention, because what you focus on becomes what you focus on more, be it the downside or the bright side, what could go wrong or what could go right, dwelling in the past or being present.

Story Time. 

From the time I was 3 until I was 17, I was a ballet dancer. My main teacher, Miss Judy, was a stickler. She demanded poise and precise body position and technique. As a result, I had perfect posture

I had practiced so much that my default was a straight spine and broad open shoulders, even outside of the studio. This habit was so ingrained, it stayed with me all the way through graduate school to my first full-time job, where someone even commented on my first week, “You walk like a model.”

No, I walked like a dancer. 

I sat in a chair for the bulk of the day at that job, which was pretty different from the more active mobile life I had been leading. Gradually, that experience of sitting all day began to take a toll. As I sat comfortably in my cushy chair, my spine began to slouch a bit – just barely. 

Over time, though, that barely slouch started to happen more and more often, hanging around even when I stood up, and it started to deepen. That slouch became my default. And the twisted part? I didn’t even realize it was happening.

Experience shaped my spinal habit in a way that became self-fueling. The same thing happens with our minds, too. When we form new habits, whether they are positive habits or bad habits research shows that it is how we build habits that make those habits stick.

Thinking Is A Habit

Fortunately, our minds – like our bodies – are incredibly plastic, continually changing throughout our lives. Even more fortunate is that we can take charge of that process. Just like my efforts to catch and correct my bad posture are paying off – I may not look like a ballerina anymore, but I’m much more aware and much better able to correct it. Your efforts to intentionally shape the way your mind works are well worth it. 

That’s what psychological strength is all about! Building mental muscle.

Knowing your mental strengths and weaknesses is just as important as knowing whether you have naturally good posture, or are slipping into a slouch. If your mind is automatically in a system of negative thoughts, you must catch it just like I do my slouching. Your working memory becomes mental muscle and will positively reinforce your good habits later on. 

Just like our bodies can be trained and toned and attuned to what we need from it, our brains can be too. Just as you would spend time training your muscles in the gym, you have to dedicate time to training your brain throughout the day. 

Even simple habits like brushing your teeth as part of your morning routine make those habits easier to stick when we stay consistent and form a habit loop. Habit formation is said to take 21 days but it takes 66 days to break a habit (exact periods vary from person to person.)

Train yourself to recognize your thought patterns. Train your brain to stop negative patterns. As important as it is to start exercising, we also need to exercise our mental muscles as well.

Build Your Mental Muscle

And that’s one of the reasons we created Ascend. We want to help people like you understand how and why your mind works the way it does and, more importantly, how to make it work for you.

If you’re at all interested in checking out Ascend, do it now! 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
– Aristotle