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Habits (Samskaras) & Neuroplasticity

What are Samskaras?

Samskaras are latent psychological tendencies that influence our thoughts and actions in the present. Similar to the word "habit", samskara tends to have a negative connotation and imply that we have a lack control. But habits can be beneficial or detrimental to our body and mind; It just depends on the habit. Samskaras, too, can be positive or negative and are the subconscious psychological equivalent of a physiological habit like smoking (negative) or exercise (positive).

How Samskaras relate to Neuroplasticity

As is typical of the Sanskrit language, samskara has many potential definitions such as: Making perfect, refining, polishing; Education, cultivation, training (as of the mind); Effect of work, merit of action. All of these definitions imply that samskaras are something we can work with. They’re pliable. This is not unlike the modern concept of neuroplasticity - the ability to alter our neural pathways and create lasting changes in the brain.

With mindful awareness we can begin to notice our samskaras and with mindful intention we can change the way we think, act and respond.

Working with Samskaras Mindfully

Mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation help us shine a light on the places where we’re stuck. I may be dating myself here, but think of a record with a scratch in it that causes the record to repeat a small section of song over and over and over again. The record won’t stop repeating unless you notice the record is skipping, stop what you’re doing, pick up the needle and set it to a new location on the record. Creating positive mental change is much the same.

Through mindfulness we become of where we’re repeating a negative thought pattern, we halt the thought in its tracks by metaphorically picking up the needle and resetting on a new, positive mental pattern of our own choosing. This is a great way to deal with that harsh inner critic and begin to change her dialogue.

The next time you notice that you’re being internally hyper-critical of yourself, see if you can notice that pattern and change the tone to something kinder and more compassionate – perhaps speaking to yourself the same way you would speak to your best friend.

Ready to shift your internally dialog? Join me for a class or let's work one-on-one - I teach private lessons throughout Monmouth County, New Jersey.

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