How to Re-wire Your Brain for Success
We instill a tremendous amount of trust in our brains, often following its guidance without hesitation. The problem is, they aren't always as reliable as we want them to be. It all comes down to how the brain works. Essentially, every time we engage in the physical and mental act of thinking, our brain fires neurons. When those neurons are fired in a particular manner, a neural pathway develops, making that thought easier to repeat.
For example, if you repeatedly think that fast food makes you happy, you are essentially wiring your brain to create a permanent link between fast food and happiness. Each time that thought is repeated, the path becomes easier and quicker. Then when your mind is next looking for happiness, the only path available will be the one containing fast food. The same goes for our phones. They are one of the biggest sources of anxiety in the modern world. Over the past few decades, anxiety rates have soared and it's now one of the biggest triggers for negative thinking.
Recent studies have shown that the populations of non-developed countries contain just a smidge of the anxieties of more civilized societies. There are many contributing factors and multiple opinions on the subject, but psychologists do seem to agree on one thing - our brains are suffering from information overload - predominantly coming from our tech. And in our current times of pandemics, revolutions and injustices, we're not just overloading on any old tidbit of information - it's intense, it's heartbreaking, and it can be overwhelming. You might feel like these matters don't affect you, and directly they might not, but our brains are being fed this near-constant stream of negative content through the media every single day. Over time that can wear on you, no matter how strong you are.
Repetitive Negative Thinking
Our minds create a constant commentary as we go about our lives, constant judgments and assumptions based on a one-sided view of our experiences. When this commentary becomes a continual negative stream of perception, it can really hold us back.
We all experience negative thoughts at some point or another, but they are often at their worst when triggered by our personal anxious running commentary - we call them thought loops. "I failed at this or that", "I'm not worthy", "I can't possibly do this". If you’re constantly caught in the winds of the world around you, letting external troubles dominate your mind, you’ll likely land yourself in a sour mood, engage in negative self-talk, and even treat others around you poorly in your frustration.
These negative loops create unnecessary stress in life, which is frustrating, but it’s all part of the process - this is how the mind works. Over time, these habitual, negative thought loops become physical neuropathways in your brain. So if you're repeatedly anxious when you're looking through your Instagram feed, your brain will forge a strong connection, making you reactive and anxious. If you routinely fall into this trap of loops, you're essentially strengthening those connections, making anxiety the default route that your mind takes when engaged in that activity. But how do you recognize when you're entering into a negative loop?
Here are a few common thought loops:
- Mind Reading - "They think I look stupid" "I know they think I'm really boring"
- Black & White Thinking - "I always mess things up" "I never do anything right"
- Over-generalising - "I didn't get the job I applied for, so I'm never going to get work again"
These negative thought loops are your brain traveling along those strong neural pathways, but they can be broken and replaced. If you're able to recognize that you're falling into this pattern, you can interrupt that thought, that connection, and break the loop.
If your neural pathways have formed strong connections they will take effort to break, but the first step is self-awareness. Being aware of your emotional trail can prevent your mind from spiraling into that negative loop. By stopping your brain from buying into these thought patterns, you're taking back control, enabling your mind to work for you instead of against.
In the beginning, it can be a challenge to notice when these negative thoughts are creeping in. Our brains are usually left in cruise control, grinding away in the background without any guidance, but mindfulness is an excellent exercise that can help. By consciously living in the moment, allowing your emotions, thoughts, and energy to flow through you, you can observe where your mind is going. You might not be able to control your thoughts, but you can become aware of them, pause, and choose what you want to do next.
While negative, repetitive thinking is what gets us into this mess in the first place, repetitive thinking can also be our solution. Affirmations are among the most useful tools in helping you rewire your brain from connecting to negativity and instead, direct it towards positivity. They are intentional statements for you to read, say, repeat and internalize. Once these affirmations enter our realm of consciousness, they also enter into our subconscious, where they have the power to change our lives. Like software for your mental computer, they can reprogram useless and unproductive thoughts and install new, more positive, and useful belief systems. All in all, affirmations can have a considerable impact on mastering your emotions and state of being.
Over time these thinking practices will physically change the construction of your brain so that its default mode is positive rather than negative. As Dr. Rick Hanson said in his book Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice At A Time - "The details are complex, but the key point is simple: how you use your mind, changes your brain."
Our minds will accept as truth what we tell them, be it positive or negative. You alone have the power to completely transform your life and the way you interact with the world around you.
Always remember: you are powerful!
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- Tags: corporate wellness
- Arielle Balaskovits