The other day I was rearranging my bedroom and I moved my laundry basket. It had been in the same place for one or two decades. Though I was clearly aware that I moved the basket, out of habit I kept going to the spot where the laundry basket had been. Why did I do this? The old pattern of “how to go to the laundry basket” was wired into my brain after doing it for so long and my new connections hadn’t had sufficient time yet to form.
The same wiring takes place regarding our feelings and reactions. We have all developed patterns in how we think, feel and physically respond to ideas, words, people, things and situations. For example, think about what happens in your body, how you feel and what your thoughts are when you smell chocolate chip cookies baking or when you see or hear an angry person shouting at someone. These patterns are wired in our brain and have become automatic.
Because of this, if we’d like to change one of our old patterns, whether it is going to the laundry basket or perhaps to stop worrying about things that might happen in the future, we need to change our thoughts long enough so that we can begin to rewire our thought process and create a new pattern, (one that leaves us feeling better). To see what your old patterns are, watch how you respond to any situation that causes a less than desirable emotion, response or outcome.
“Change doesn’t take place without rewiring of existing connections or creating entirely new connections. This is why we literally “become” what we think about most of the time…If we frequently think depressing thoughts we are building a database for depression and experiencing everything that goes with it.” –Don Carter MSW, LCSW
The same is true of feeling good. It’s the result of focusing on some believable, positive feeling or idea. It could be something that delights us, or leaves us feeling peaceful, hopeful or enthusiastic. This is where the saying “fake it till you make it” came from. The idea is to keep the focus on something that supports us instead of our (old) negative thoughts. Overtime those new, positive, repetitious thoughts will create new connections in our brain. It’s like building a muscle.
It takes conditioning, many repetitions and a certain frequency, to build muscle. It’s not possible to do it a few times and have a strong muscle from then on. In both cases your body is building something new even though you may not be able to see the results yet.
There are several ways to go about changing patterns that aren’t getting you what you want. One way is through affirmations or positive, believable statements. For example, “I will take responsibility for what I can control in a situation and let go of what I cannot” or ” I may not have the fit body yet that I want but, if I keep taking steps in that direction, I will get there.” Another way is to put reminders around your environment. The idea is to use objects that make you think differently, sticky notes, note cards, pictures, change your screen saver, anything that supports what you’re trying to accomplish.
So, if there are any small or large changes you are trying to make, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t take shape in a short period of time, keep going. As you can see, the rewiring process takes time and repetition. The only way you won’t get there is if you stop.
“Your brain is the most modifiable part of your whole body, and you can rewire your brain by how you use it every day.” -Sandra Bond Chapman
With love, Jackie