change starts within

The other day I read a wonderful article about novelty by Alane K. Daugherty, Ph.D., who sees the benefit of taking a novel approach to change. She asserts that when we seek newness whether it’s taking a different route to work, changing old behaviors or looking at our relationships, we expand our mind with introducing novelty into our lives and the lives or our clients. Daugherty is an author and co- director of Cal Poly Pomonas’ Mind and Heart Research lab, and she wrote about how to overcome limiting behaviors by embracing self compassion, as it’s a kinder more sustainable approach to self-growth and works so much better then the usual blame game.

Why Novelty Is Good For Us

According to neuroscience, we have two primary physiological drives: flight or fright. These are are stress response systems and our calm and connection systems. When we approach change from a place of shame, guilt or self-loathing (I hate this about myself), we are in a flight or fight mode. Cortisol may help us focus to make change for the short-term but once we feel better, cortisol will drop and we move away from lasting change.

On the other hand when we are grounded in a care and connection system, we are more prone to see greater possibilities and opportunities. You function at a whole different level. According to Daugherty it’s called the “broaden and build theory”. When novelty comes into play it’s that dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to motivation and positivity, is associated with newness behavior control and positive outcomes. So when we approach a problem with a fresh, grounded & self-compassionate approach, we are more likely to feel good and make lasting change. Also, when you are novel in your approach to specific tasks, that will produce more dopamine.

Just hit pause for a second and think most behavioral health mental health addiction centers are based on creating novelty into their clients life. Most create a safe holding environment for the individual to change. Compared to the shame, blame, self-deprecation and guilt they have experienced, novelty is being introduced as the cornerstone of change.

Yet How Can We Seek Out Novelty On Our Everyday Lives

With the new year we often set out our new intentions about who we are and what we will do every day. When Daugherty talks about newness to encourage change, she is referring to things we can do daily ie implementing accessible steps in our everyday routines. First she invites us to listen to our gut to do intuitive listening.

To find this intuitive yes she tells us to ask yourself the following three questions:

  • Does it feel new?
  • Does it feel expansive?
  • Does it feel different?

We can answer these questions in small steps. For instance, if you’re looking to feel better about your body, what is a shift to your diet that you can make? If you’re bored being stuck in traffic, have you considered taking a new route to work? If you love listening to apps, Daugherty suggests downloading a few new ones to gain a fresh perspective. “It’s about breaking familiar routines and it’s about being creative,” she says. By making a small tweak from a place of seeking novelty, we get that dopamine hit that energizes us and keeps us motivated. “Again, it doesn’t have to be a huge change. It’s about breaking the familiarity so it feels new.”

  • The magic of small steps.
  • The other huge—and motivating—finding from neuroscience is how small changes go a long way. Each shift builds upon the next, resulting in grander changes. “I love the analogy of driving the car down the road at night,” says Daugherty. “All you can see is 200 feet in front of it with the headlights, but those 200 feet are always enough.”
  • By taking a few small and different steps, we stimulate those novelty neural networks in our brain, which lead us to continue down that positive path toward beneficial, lasting change.

Dr. Alane Daugherty is a writer, speaker, and professor. She is the author of several books including Unstressed: How Somatic Awareness Can Transform Your Body’s Stress Response and Build Emotional Resilience, as well as the audio series De-stress with Dr. Alane