I am constantly amazed by the mind. Quite honestly, it is our most powerful weapon for or against us. Our days are spent more IN our minds than they are anywhere else. And what is incredibly overwhelming to discover is that about 98% of our daily thoughts are the same as those we had yesterday and at the very least, 80% of them are negative.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, we are wired to rewire. I love that! I love that while we have the ability to be “stuck,” it is entirely possible for us to change that, to “unstuck” ourselves. Not all our thoughts have to be the same and they most certainly do not have to be negative. What is even more encouraging is that while we are rewiring our brains, we are also enabling the brain to function at a higher level, improving memory, strengthening our immunity, slowing down the aging process, speeding up recovery after trauma, illness or injury and loads more.
What do I even mean by rewire? Well, it all starts in … the mind. And the scientific term for it is “neuroplasticity”. It is the brain’s ability to use thoughts to change its actual physical story. In other words, every time we think a new thought, a new neurological pathway in the brain is created. Every time we think that same thought, the pathway is reinforced. BUT, every time we stop that thought, the pathway becomes less and less until we find we are no longer thinking that thought and it has been replaced by a new thought, which in turn has made a new pathway. The more new pathways we make, the more the brain actually changes. When we are making new pathways our brains begin to function at higher and higher levels, our memory improves and we generally begin to feel better. This encourages us to think more thoughts and slowly, our negative cycles of negative thinking become positive cycles of new ideas, thoughts, desires and so we go. It goes without saying that if we keep thinking negative thoughts, the reverse happens.
Some ways I have begun to practice rewiring my brain are by doing no less than three Sudoku puzzles a day, by reading every night before bed, learning new crochet patterns, singing new songs, writing this blog, doing some writing work in the business world and by homeschooling my children. Each time we do something new, we create a new pathway. I reinforce some of those pathways (like song lyrics) by repetition and then once I have them memorized, I move on from it, leaving it to wait for me to need it again. My kids are amazed that I know my multiplication tables by heart (or mind). What our teachers didn’t realize was that by teaching us some material in a “parrot fashion” way, they were reinforcing neurological pathways. I’m grateful (although I know this is not the only way to learn so please don’t think your kids should now learn EVERYTHING parrot fashion).
Another wonderful practice I learned about in the book, “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, was something called “Morning Pages”.
“I have a daily practice of three longhand pages done first thing on awakening, hence, “Morning Pages.” The pages clear my head and prioritize my day. I think of them as a form of meditation. There is no wrong way to do the pages. You simply keep your hand moving across the page, not pausing to take what I call “mental cigarette breaks.” It is as though you are sending the universe a telegram: “this is what I like, this is what I don’t like…” Implicit in this, “please help me.” If the pages are meditation, they are also a potent form of prayer.” – Julia Cameron.
What happens when we do this “brain dump” first thing every day, is that we take any lingering thoughts from the day before and release them on to the page, making space for new thoughts. This not only encourages creativity and inspires us toward new things, it also gives us a sense of accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment then releases dopamine, our achievement hormone. The higher the dopamine levels in our bodies, the higher our alertness, focus, creativity, long-term memory and concentration. It is a win-win.
I could go on and on about this, I really could. My hope in writing this is to inspire you to “change your brain” and to take captive those negative thoughts. Lets rewrite our stories and turn this otherwise tumultuous time (Covid, lockdowns, no travel etc. etc.) in something new, something wonderful.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on the subject (although I have studied it), and I do not profess to be a doctor or to have all the answers. But, there are loads of actual doctors, like Drs Caroline Leaf, Norman Doige, Seth Hays and Richard Dividson, who are experts on the subject and who offer some incredible insights. I would highly recommend that you to check out some of their books, papers, talks, videos and interviews.