Fundamentally humans would rather not get angry, impatient, anxious or be in a negative headspace but unfortunately our minds fall on the negative bias. With some determination and a great deal of self-awareness, we have the capacity to change our brain.
A BIT OF SCIENCE : NEURAL PATHWAYS
When certain thoughts and behaviours are repeated neurons fire together creating a ‘neural pathway’. If you’re on the tube and it’s jam packed and you’re hot and people are pushing you, and your reaction is anger, that fires a series of neurons together. The first time you have a reaction to something you are laying down the foundation for that neural pathway. Each time you have the same reaction you are reinforcing the neural pathway and eventually it becomes very easy to have the same angry or negative response. In fact, the response is no longer a unique reaction to a unique stimulus, it is a habit. A well-known phrase to describe this is ‘neurons that fire together wire together’.
The below explanation explains it clearly for us:
“Just think of your brain as a dynamic, connected power grid, with billions of roads and pathways lighting up every time you think, feel or do something. Some of these roads are well travelled. These are your habits; your established ways of thinking, feeling and doing. Every time you think in a certain way, practice a particular task, or feel a specific emotion, you strengthen this road, and it becomes easier for your brain to travel this pathway.”
Scientific research has now proven that we’re able to change the way we think. Where as previously it was thought that the adult mind was fixed and hard to change. Now it has been proven that we can alter our mind patterns by rewiring our neural pathways that regulate our emotions, thoughts, and reactions. This means we can create new neural pathways that lead us to compassion, gratitude, and joy instead of anxiety, fear and anger. With a great deal of awareness, mindfulness and acknowledgement of the present we can begin to reprogram our brain. But this is no easy task!
This process of rewiring your brain by forming new connections and weakening old ones is called “neuroplasticity”.
The brain is constantly adapting and rewiring itself. Our thoughts and behaviours influence this process. If we consciously change and adapt our thoughts and behaviours we can begin to rewire our brain to a more positive state. SO…..
How can we begin to change our neural pathways?
Thought Monitoring Exercise
Step 1 – Becoming Aware
Notice when your inner peace is disturbed with a negative thought. Begin to observe your thoughts from a non-judgmental and loving place. At the beginning it can be helpful to jot down negative thoughts perhaps feelings of jealousy, comparison, shame, judging etc.
Step 2 – Pause
When you feel your emotion bubbling; Stop. Pause. Breathe. If we can find a moments pause before we react we can then consciously react to the situation, rather than habitually. We have a chance to take the reins.
Step 3 – Cancel Thought
As and when a negative thought comes in cut the cord immediately and banish the thought from your mind. Choose a phrase that has most power and meaning for you e.g. ‘I banish this thought’ ‘Cancel, clear’ ‘I cut the cord’ ‘Stop’. We simply cut the cord and wipe the slate clean.
Step 4 – Affirmations / positive phrase
- Have a goto affirmation on standby e.g. ‘I am courageous’ ‘I love myself’ ‘I trust the universe will provide’. Something that resonates to you. Something you want to manifest more of in your life.
- Flip the thought into a positive and empowering phrase.
Step 5 – Flush It Out
As you begin to notice thought patterns, journal about things that come up, be curious about why we’re thinking and feel that way. Why are we jealous? Why are we angry? Why are we self-doubting?
As you journal you begin to discover the root cause of the issue. Your perspective will begin to shift and it’s a great way to flush it out and let it go. Ask yourself questions? Do an unconscious stream of writing for 20/30 minutes, see what comes up.
What we focus on in our lives, we amplify. Our thoughts create our reality. Owning our thoughts and managing our mind is so important. This is something we need to be doing all day everyday. Write down the above exercise on a note card so you can reference it throughout your day. Once you’ve learnt the exercise you can implement it in a matter of seconds.
Jessica has been teaching on Kuula since May 2020, check her out at www.jessicawoodyoga.com