It has been claimed that our brains are naturally wired for negativity. This isn’t so bad as it helps up become aware of dangers and threats that surround us. It is only when everything is seen in a negative light that it becomes maladaptive.
Here’s an experiment that you can try for yourself. If you do something wrong, what is/are the first thought(s) that enter into your mind? Are they positive or negative?
Another exercise you can do, to see which way your brain is wired, is to keep a “thought journal” for a week. You can keep it for longer if you want, a month would be ample time. At the end of your chosen period, make a list of all the positive and negative thoughts. Which category is greater?
If you find that you automatically think negatively, or that you have a greater ratio of negative thoughts to positive ones, then it is time to do some rewiring work.
Remember, not all negative thoughts are bad. It’s only when the negative thoughts have no real basis in reality that there is a problem. You need to be honest with yourself and ask how accurate your negative thinking is.
Just as there may be faulty wiring in a house, we also may discover that we possess “faulty wiring”. What happens if we neglect to deal with the faulty wiring we discover in a house? There is the risk that such wiring can cause a fire and the house is destroyed. Our metaphorical house is our health, well-being and our relationships. If we don’t deal with the faulty wiring in our thinking, we can end up burnt-out and our relationships destroyed.
If we find that our physical house has faulty wiring, we need to replace the wiring with new wiring. So it is with the wiring in our brain. If our negative thinking is found to have no basis in facts, then we need to have a “rewiring”. The maladaptive negative thinking is akin to the faulty wiring that threatens the house. It threatens our well-being, our happiness, our peace and serenity and also affects our relationships.
But how do we go about rewiring our thoughts? It is a process, just as it is in determining where the faulty wiring is hidden behind the walls of a house. Once it is discovered, then the wiring can be replaced with the new wiring. So, the first step is awareness. Once we have a negative thought, we need to determine whether it is natural and helpful (remember that not all negative thoughts are bad). If we decide that the the negative thought is faulty, then we need to replace it with a positive thought. We are now on the way to rewiring our thinking.
The next step is to look for positive things in your life. Sometimes we take things for granted. We stop appreciating things and, more importantly, people. When was the last time you told someone how much you appreciate them? When was the last time you just stopped and appreciated nature? Go for a walk and just listen to the sounds of nature. Look at the beauty of the flowers and the trees. When we start to become more aware and thankful for the positive things surround us every day, then our brains will automatically begin to forge new channels for the positive thoughts to flow through.
Another step is to look at our self-image. What do you think about yourself? Do you like yourself, or hate yourself? How do you react when someone says something nasty to you. Do you believe the comments the person has made? Or do you just explain it away as the person is having a bad day? We can’t avoid people saying negative things to us, but we can avoid taking the comments on board as facts about us. If you find that you are mulling over the bad comments made towards you, then you need to ask yourself why you are thinking about the comments. At a fundamental level you may believe that the comments are true. But is this an accurate assessment of who you truly are? For example, I used to be told that I am no good and that I would never amount to anything. I believed that, because that is the message I was given several times a week as I was growing up. Then as I got older, I would sometimes have someone say to me “You’re useless.” I would go over the comment over and over again in my mind and I would agree with the comments. Why? Because that was the message that had been “programmed” into my brain. In other words, my brain was wired to think the negative comments were true.
So, how do we go about rewiring our thinking from a negative self-image, into a positive self image? Again, it is a process. As we encounter a negative self-belief, we need to find an opposing positive self-belief. In my example, as I achieved things in life, I realised that I’m not useless. So whenever someone made comments along that line, I would dismiss such comments by remembering the things that I have achieved. As you challenge the negative self-image, with a positive self-image, you are rewiring your brain.
It has been suggested that to overcome 1 negative comment/criticism requires 5 positive comments. Here’s some homework for you. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned about keeping a “Thought journal” for a week in which you record your thinking. Again, I want you to keep a notebook and record down nothing but positive thoughts for the duration of the exercise. How long you want to do it for is up to you, but I recommend at least a month (as that is usually the duration it takes to replace old habits with new habits).
By challenging your negative thoughts, determining whether they are healthy or not, you are on your way to rewiring you brain. It’s a process. It will take time. But the results are worth it!
Let your rewiring begin!