#ICYMI MY FRIENDS – INFORMATION WORTH REPEATING
Welcome to #FACTUAL FRIDAY everyone – and welcome to a wonderful NEW YEAR brimming with PROMISE and POSSIBILITY!
If you’re like me, you probably spent at least a little time during the last week making a list of things you want to change this year – or improve – or eliminate – or add. Yes, the all familiar New Year’s Resolutions. Because, we all want our lives to move in the right direction — forward — toward more fulfillment, satisfaction, health and joy. This is the nature of life. And, this is what we want for ourselves and our loved ones.
But, it’s not always easy to stick with our resolutions. Writing them down – yes. That’s easy. But, making them a part of our lives and incorporating them into our daily activity – not always so easy.
This is because we are creatures of habit. And, old habits are hard to break. You see, when we do something over and over, it becomes a part of our internal wiring. Our brain actually learns to think about and react to events in our lives in the same way. In other words, the way our brain works and thinks about things also becomes habit.
We’ve all heard the expression, “If you want things to be different, you have to do things differently.” So true. But, before we can do things differently, we have to think differently. And, before we can do that, it’s helpful to understand how the brain and our thought processes work. So, here we go.
When we have a particular thought, the brain creates a neural pathway from point A to point D. When we have the same thought again, the brain sends its neural impulse down the same pathway. And, when we have the same thought again, the brain again sends its neural impulse down the same pathway. This pathway essentially becomes a rut. And, when we get in a rut, we all know how hard it is to get out. Our thoughts become like little mice running the same pathway in the same maze over and over again.
The good news is that we have the power to change the way our brain works – and the way we think. It’s called NEUROPLASTICITY — a term that refers to the brain’s potential to reorganize itself by creating new neural pathways when faced with new stimuli. This means we can rewire our brain. Or, retrain our brain. And, this means we can change a bad habit or learn to think of an old situation in a whole new light. We have the ability to get out of the rut – and think and act in new and productive ways.
For example, let’s say we’re on our way to work – or an important meeting – or our child’s soccer game. We’re driving and we come to a sudden standstill in traffic two miles from our destination. Our first reaction – by habit – is probably to veer down the old familiar negative path and think, “I don’t have time for this! I’m going to be late! I can’t believe this is happening to me again! I’m almost out of gas!” Now, what we need to realize is that every time we choose to think in this way, our brain reinforces that negative pathway. This particular pathway becomes a rut – a rut that becomes deeper and harder to stay out of each time we experience an event that triggers this same negative reaction.
In other words, this becomes our go-to reaction for every bump in the road – for both small and large disappointments, unexpected detours and every day obstacles.
But, what if the next time you find yourself stuck in traffic, you stop your initial reaction to throw your hands up in the air and rant and rave – and instead – think that maybe if traffic wasn’t backed up you might have been involved in a car accident. Or, maybe you would have been traveling too fast and would have been stopped by the police for speeding. Or, maybe your coffee would have spilled all over the paperwork you spent the entire week preparing. Or, maybe you would have arrived early to your destination where the building door was still locked and a skateboarder blasts by you splashing a big puddle of mud all over your new shoes.
Sounds ridiculous?? Maybe. But, each time you force yourself to think in a new way you are forcing your brain to create new pathways of thought. And before long, your go-to reaction in times of stress will be that of positive thought and action rather than negative thought and action.
And, the really good news is that we don’t have to wait for stressful or disappointing events to occur before we start retraining our brain. We can start today. By simply challenging our brain with new information it will begin to develop new ways of thinking. The more we do this, the more we exercise our brain. The more we exercise our brain, the more flexible it becomes. And, the more flexible our brain becomes, the easier it is for us to think and act in new ways. And this means, the more likely we will be to keep those New Year’s Resolutions!
So, why not try these FIVE SIMPLE TIPS to challenge your brain and get you started on your way:
- Do your morning tasks differently. If you normally shower first and enjoy coffee after, try having coffee first then showering. If you make phone calls before you get dressed, get dressed first and then make your calls.
- Take a different route. If you take the same route to work each day – or to the grocery store – or to school – take a different route. Turn left instead of right. Take the “scenic route” instead of the short-cut. Travel through a new neighborhood rather than the same old one.
- Change up your physical routine. If you walk in the morning, try walking in the afternoon instead. If you run errands in the afternoon, try running them in the morning. Change your pattern of working in the yard, or taking out the trash, or walking your dog.
- Begin your day with one positive affirmation. “I am strong.” “Today is going to be a great day.” “I am grateful for my family.” “I am capable.” By doing this, you signal your brain to automatically think in a more positive and productive way.
- Try learning one new thing each day. Want to know how to say, “Thank you” in Swedish? Find out! Want to learn one new exercise to help strengthen your back? Do it! Want to find out the name of that tree in your neighbor’s yard? Look it up! Learning one new thing a day will keep your brain challenged and flexible.
The beauty of neuroplasticity and retraining our brain is that small, simple steps can lead to big changes in the quality of our thoughts and the effectiveness of our actions. And, of course, this will help us tackle our resolutions for the New Year in a very practical and positive way.
Therefore, whether your resolution is to be more positive, or lose weight, or learn a new language, or be kinder to your loved ones, or explore the benefits of Fung Shui, or be more grateful for what you have, or find a new job, or go back to school, or learn how to deep fry a turkey – whatever it is – these simple tips will get your brain moving in the right direction. In the direction of positive change. You (and your brain) will become empowered and enabled. And, this will allow you to realize your dreams and make your wishes for every New Year come true!
In closing, I would like to THANK ALL of YOU for joining me. I am so grateful for your friendship and support. And, I sincerely hope that you have found something helpful or hopeful – or at least interesting – here on my website during the last twelve months. My wish for the New Year is that I can continue to write for you – posing questions, offering insights and presenting information that may improve, help or shed light on your life in some small way or another.
I wish each and every one of you a very Joyful, Peaceful & Healthy New Year filled with Abundance & Love!
Until next time, stay in GOOD HEALTH and . . .