Your Thoughts Create Your Life
Well we are at the end of January already! Has the excitement of the new year with new goals and resolutions worn off yet? And, for all of us in the northern hemisphere. We are smack dab in the middle of winter. Are you in the repeat cycle of ‘nothing ever works out for me’? Guess what! We have the power of neuroplasticity to save or doom us. What will you choose?
Remember that neuroplasticity changes our brain in response to our environment. If our expectations for the new year have already come to a screeching halt – we are dealing with the brain adapting to challenging circumstances in a negative way. This sounds like a real dilemma. If our brain adapts to our toxic environment by being totally negative, what can we do?
The Positive/Negative Brain
Let’s get some perspective on the positive/negative brain. Our brain adapts to our thoughts and it is predisposed to go toward the negative side of things. Now that begs the question – Why? First of all, our brains are hard-wired to sense threat on a subconscious level. It is a survival mechanism. Secondly, we see the world through the perspective of our life experiences. Unfortunately, our brain hard-wires perceptions from experiences that occurred when we were young children. Perhaps you heard your parents arguing about money and you saw the emotions that went with that argument. Your brain decided right then and there that a lack of money was a threat to you, elicits fear, and you needed to be protected. All of this occurred below your level of awareness in your subconscious mind. You ended up living your life through this filter of fear. For example, you are given opportunities to succeed in your career but your brain always raises red flags about how you couldn’t handle it; aren’t prepared for it and made the risk of accepting careers moves too fearful. As a result, you feel like you are in a dead-end job and can’t figure out why you aren’t happy.
Now let’s change the scenario. What if you stepped out of that fear response and decided to go all in for that new challenging opportunity. Your brain has the ability to restructure gray matter in reaction to this change of stimulus. When you change what you think, say or do, you change your emotional state. Emotions actually change what will ‘be fired together to wire together’. You are creating new neural pathways to support your new way of thinking (neuroplasticity).
How to Rewire Your Brain
According to Psychology Today, there are four steps to rewire your brain to think and feel a different way.
1. See your automatic response patterns and behaviors as learned brain strategies.
This means that your toxic thought patterns and behaviors make you believe that you are a lesser person. Your brain is made to be a problem solver. Problem thoughts and behaviors are learned responses that you automatically use – because they work to protect you. These are not conscious thoughts or behaviors – but you believe that is just the way that you are wired; it is just you. These are behaviors learned as a child that you have practiced many, many times. These thoughts and behaviors might seem like they are ‘you’ but they are really learned behaviors. That is good news because they can be unlearned.
There is an aha moment here – you can choose how you want to think and live. Once the awareness of knowing that you can change your thoughts – you can break out of your comfort zone, your automatic response. When your typical red flags go up you can acknowledge them but choose not to follow them.
2. Re-frame a behavior as a problem located outside of who you are as a person.
You need to step outside your problem/behavior to objectively see what is true and what is not true. As an example – take an unwanted thought that pops up in your head – ‘I am not smart enough to do that”. Tell yourself that you have the knowledge to complete that job and acknowledge that fear is keeping you frozen from acting on it.
This is a monumental task. It takes a force of nature to focus on something completely opposite from where your brain has always taken you. This was a survival technique and the change of thinking will take determined focus. You will however, consciously change the way you think.
3. Set clear life vision to refocus your energies on what you consciously prioritize and most value.
“To the extent you have a clear vision of your life and what you most value, your body and mind subconscious galvanizes, and sharply focuses, your emotional energy to create thoughts, ideas, and actions align with your highest yearning.” (PsychCentral.com)
Maybe you have had a vague idea of what you want to do with your life. But you never sat down and specifically designed what you want and how you are going to get there. Your subconscious mind needs details. A specific vision is necessary for success. Your subconscious mind needs this information consciously fed to it.
“It’s not an option. It’s how your brain is designed to work. You need a clear vision of what you really want, who you want to be, what you are willing to do and not do, clear enough so that you can see it, preferably involving most or all of your senses, that is, you picture it, taste it, smell it, hear it, and feel it – as if it were already a present reality.” (PsychCentral.com)
When your vision is your passion you are allowing the subconscious mind, responsible for developing habits, to let go of those entrenched habits and patterns that have been causing your problems. To influence a change, you must have the cooperation of the subconscious mind. Your vision must energize you and therefore, drives the change. You can achieve what you want when the conscious and subconscious mind are working together.
4. Take action to express your commitment to this new priority or value.
And this is where the thoughts become action. You must perform the new behavior to replace the old one. You have to give your brain new things to do. This is where the brain changes – new chemistry produced, new neural pathways created and a new mindset emerges. This change requires repetition. Your action must constantly reflect your new thinking. You are replacing the deep-seeded habits that have controlled your life. When you consistently take action to override your old emotional response to situations, you are consciously self-directing changes in your brain. The more you practice this new behavior, the more your subconscious mind will integrate it into the new automatic response. When you aren’t using your old hardwiring those patterns will eventually fade away. You won’t be stuck in the fight or flight response anymore. You will make more conscious choices.
This may seem beyond reason that we can change our brain so dramatically. Scientific studies have shown that our brain structurally changes when we consistently and repetitively change our patterns of behavior. Ultimately this means that you can consciously choose what you will create and change. The limiting beliefs are gone!
Staik,A. (May 2015) Four steps to rewire your brain with your mind and conscious action. Neuroscience and Relationships with Dr. Athena Staik. Retrieved from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2015/05/four-steps-to-rewire-your-brain-with-your-mind-and-conscious-action/