Rewire your brain

brain_rewire

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!

 

Phew! What a day…!

We all have them, days that we wish we should have stayed in bed. Those days where, if anything is going to go wrong, it will. Several times. Just to make sure that your day is really bad! I had one of those days several weeks ago!

How do you cope when the stress slowly mounts and you find yourself get more and more wound up and tense? I know some people who decide to unwind by pouring themselves a wine or three. Others go and take out their stress out on those they love: their family, girlfriend/boyfriend or friends. Yet others draw within themselves and reminisce on the negativity of the day. This only leads to feelings of despair, depression and hopelessness. These ways are maladaptive because, though they may appear to alleviate the stress, they do so in unhealthy ways. 

There are many ways that we can deal with stress in healthy and productive ways. Starting this week, I will begin a series about how to identify stress and the different techniques that you can use to minimise the affect that it has not only on your mental well-being but also on your health. I hope that you will enjoy the series and that you get a lot of benefit out of it. Feel free to leave me comments to say what you enjoy in the series and how it may of helped you. 

The first part in the series is going to be all about what stressors are and what affect they have on our minds and bodies. So stay tuned!

 

I am not who you think I am!

We all have different roles that we take on each day: maybe you’re a student, a husband, a mother, an employee, a compassionate friend. Within these roles there are different requirements on how we are to act and react. If you are in a role long enough, then people may feel that they get a better understanding about you. People may begin to know you and define you within the context of the current role(s) that you fulfill. 

Is this an accurate way of getting to understand someone? No! We are all individuals and more than the sum of our parts. It is granted that if we have people that know us long enough and see us in operation in differing roles, then those people will have a better understanding of who we are. Yet they still will fail to know us as intimately as we know ourselves. We may feign to be happy, yet within ourselves we are sad. Someone may say “I know what you are thinking”, but this is just an assumption. Unless that individual possesses telepathic ability, there is no real way that someone knows exactly what you are thinking. 

The point I want to make is that there is no real way that anyone can define who you are with 100% accuracy. The only person who knows you is yourself. Sometimes, some people do not even know who they are because they are too busy conforming to the dictates of those around them. If you feel that you really do not know who you are, then it is time to stop being defined by others and start defining yourself. 

How can does one start on the journey of self-discovery/self-definition? Here are some steps that will lead you on the beginnings of the wonderful journey of introspection:

  • Find out what it is that you like/dislike.
  • Are you a conformist? Do you agree with those around you just because you want to fit in? Do you feel that your opinions and ideas are not as important as other people’s? Why do you feel the need to conform?
  • Do you consider yourself to be more than just what people see you as? That is, are you more than the role(s) that you fulfill? If the answer is: “No”, then I suggest that you get a pad and paper and, for the next month, keep a daily record of your thoughts and feelings. You may be surprised to see that you are more than just what people define you as. You will see that you are a complex, interesting human being who is unique. 
  • How often do you take time to stop and look within yourself. Are you in touch or aware of your intuition? Learn how to recognise that “inner you”. 
  • Are you conscious of your feelings and emotions? Do you acknowledge these or do you ignore them? 

These are just a few ways that you can begin to discover yourself. Too often we are all busy looking outside ourselves, busy with life, busy with the demands that people and life thrust upon us. We think that these external circumstances define who we truly are. Once you begin the journey of introspection, when you start to look within yourself and explore who you truly are. Then you will find that you are not who people think you are. You are a unique, complex, interesting individual who is beyond being stuck with a label and definition.

 

 

Ego Massage! Is there anything wrong with one?

The other day someone looked at me in a way that made me feel good. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. However, it got me to thinking about how people can become reliant on situations like that in order for them to feel good about themselves. 

Every now and then we do need praise and recognition. It’s just a part of human nature to have our efforts and abilities acknowledged by peers and those in positions of authority. How do you feel when someone tells you what a great job you did at putting together that sales report? How do you feel when you have just scored that elusive goal? How do you feel when someone compliments you on how you look? You feel good right? You even find that your confidence has been given a boost! 

The problem lies in an individual’s need to be seeking constant praise in order to feel good and secure about themselves. These people suffer from low self-esteem, lack of confidence and a poor self-image. The view that they have of themselves is always reliant on the praise and reassurance they receive from those around them. If they do not get this, then they may think that they are lacking something and then a flood of negative thoughts enter. These people are insecure within themselves. 

At the other end of the scale are those people who are narcissistic. The world revolves around them (so they think!). They believe that they are better than anyone else. They also need constant praise to feed their false self-view of how fantastic they are. Watch out if you tell these people that they are no better than anyone else! You will be on the receiving end of a tirade of abuse about how useless YOU are! (This just proves that, in order to be above everyone else, the narcissistic personality has to pull everyone else down to a level below them!). These people are also insecure because they have built up a false world-view where they are the centre of everything and everything is about them! They need everyone to validate their importance.

What has all this got to do with “ego massage”? Simply this: People at both ends of the self-esteem spectrum need to seek constant strokes of their ego in order to define themselves. They rely on externals to define them. This only leads to a false “self-identity” because these individual’s are defined by those around them. They have no internal idea as to who they truly are. 

If you are someone who is always seeking praise, then it is time to stop. Praise yourself for being a unique individual. Make a list of the good qualities you possess (as recognised solely by you and not by what other’s say). If someone criticises you, then ask yourself if the criticism is valid or not. If it isn’t then just chuck it aside and move on. If it is, then take the criticism on board and see it as a chance to grow. Also, do things that make you feel good. As you start to make small adjustments in your self belief, then you will be amazed at how much confidence you will gain and also your self-esteem will grow! 

There is nothing wrong with an “ego massage” every now and then. It makes you feel good. It is only when people need these all the time in order to feel good about themselves. Then there is a problem.

It is time to stop on relying others to define you. Define yourself by the process of honest self-examination. 

 

 

 

Inconsistently Consistent

How many times have you started something, but you did it half-heartedly. You had enthusiasm, but then you got busy with something else. The first project is still there and you pay attention to it every now and then, but the enthusiasm you had has waned. You wonder why things aren’t progressing as fast as you would like. It is because you are being inconsistently consistent.  

I have been there so many times and it is frustrating. A couple of years ago I decided that I want to become more fitter. I caught up with a friend who was on his own fitness mission and I made an effort, but after a couple of months things started to slide. I would be too tired (that’s just an excuse for saying “I can’t be bothered”). Then after a few months I would make another effort.  Was I getting enjoyment from getting hot, sweaty and exhausted from working out? No! (I know there are some people out there who love going to the gym!) Then I would start making other excuses…”My knee hurts”, “It’s raining”, “It’s too cold!”

After such a haphazard approach to my fitness, was I getting the results that I wanted? No! Why wasn’t I achieving the result? Simply because I was inconsistent. 

If there is something that you want out of life, then you have to first of all make the decision that you want it. Then you have to consistently go after it. If you stay focused and on track, then  you can achieve whatever goal or dream you want. It takes work, dedication and consistency. 

In my fitness example I found that I had to start again from the beginning because all the gains I achieved had been lost. I felt guilty about it because I had let myself down. Did I beat myself up over it? No. I just started from the beginning and kept at it. Now I do work outs at least 4 times a week. Sure there are times when I still don’t feel like it, but I force myself and then I feel good because I have done it!

You are not going to get anywhere if you just work on a goal every now and then. You will find that the initial enthusiasm that you had has gone and once it has gone it is hard to get back. You will also get frustrated by the lack of progress. 

If you have a dream, goal or desire that you want to pursue, then make a plan of how you are going to bring it to fruition. After you have the plan, then work at it consistently (which may mean working at it several times a week). When you put in that kind of effort and dedication you will find that you still have that interest and desire in the goal, you will maintain focus and then you will find that soon your goal will come to pass! Something that may never happen if you are inconsistently consistent.

 

 

I’m Prosperous and Rich!!! (Are you really…?)

We live in a world where success seems to depend on the size of your bank account and the flashy house you live in. How many of us are trying to keep up with the Joneses? Who are they trying to keep up with?

In our materialistic society, your prosperity and success in life is determined by such things as those mentioned above. Is that an accurate description of prosperity? I would say “No!” 

One can have all the money in the world and yet still be poor. How so? They could be socially impoverished, spiritually impoverished or emotionally poor. Prosperity stretches well beyond the realm of materialism.  

Imagine this scenario: A person has a billion dollars in the bank. They are prosperous right? What if you found out that the individual is always lying awake at night worrying about losing all the money, scheming ways to get more. They have superficial friends who will quickly abandon the person if ever the person became completely broke. Now the person is striving to maintain the friendships with these shallow people. Also, this individual is married with 3 children. Yet in order to maintain the lifestyle that the family has become accustomed to, this person is constantly on business trips and very rarely sees their spouse and the children. 

Do you think individual in the scenario is truly prosperous? True prosperity is holistic in that it encompasses all areas of you life. I suggest that prosperity can be divided into different areas:

  • Emotional/Mental: If you are happy with your life and satisfied with where you are at, then you are emotionally prosperous. If you do not lie awake at night worrying about things. If you can look at setbacks as challenges rather than failures and treat them as “growth” opportunities, then your emotional/mental bank account is healthy! 
  • Social: Do you have close friendships? Are they deep friendships based on mutual trust? How “one sided” are the friendships? If you find that people around you are taking more than giving, then it is time for you to analyse what is going on. Are you being used and taken advantage of? How well do you get on with those around you? Social prosperity can be reflected in the fact that people enjoy your company and praise your virtues. Friendships are deep, meaningful and reciprocal.
  • Home life: How much time do you spend with your family and your children? Society has a way of pulling our time and attention in all sorts of directions, yet the most important area needs to be your family. If you find that you are “in debt” in this area, then it is time to sit down and take stock of what is draining your time and attention, then change!
  • Spiritual: This area is highly subjective. If there is something that is robbing you of your inner peace and tranquility, then it may be time for you to gather some spiritual prosperity! It does not have to require a lot of time and effort. 30 minutes a day in mediation will do wonders. 
  • Materialistic: I would be considered a complete idiot if I did not think that we all need money. That’s why we work, gamble, save and invest. The greater the assets you have and the less the liabilities determines your “net worth”. If you find that you are constantly trying to make ends meet, then it is time for making some decisions (legal ones!) about how to either increase your income or reduce your expenses.  

True prosperity could be described as having all the above areas in balance. Then you can say “I’m prosperous and rich…in all areas of my life!”

 

Fear, why do I imagine you?

Okay, here is the scenario:

You are facing a situation, one that you may not have experienced before. You are anxious enough about it, but then your mind decides to help you freak out even more! How does your mind decide to help? It helps you by causing you to think about the “What ifs…” next thing, you realise that you have reached a new “personal best” in your anxiety levels. 

There is nothing wrong with the “What ifs.” It’s only that the ones that your mind creates seem to be negative “What ifs” – What if I am useless at this new job? What if I fail if I try? What if people will tease me when I don’t succeed. How will I cope? What if I can’t cope?

Next thing we find that we are fearing the upcoming situation, be it a job promotion, a career change, moving house. If you take the time to stop and actually analyse the thoughts that cause you to question your coping ability, you will find that most, if not all, the thoughts are baseless. You are contemplating scenarios that may never happen, but you are stressing and worrying about them! 

What has just happened? Simply this: you have imagined a fearful situation. Where is the evidence to support the conclusion you have just reached about your inability to succeed in that new job? Where is the evidence that your new neighbours are going to be annoying slobs who party to some godless hour in the morning?  You will find that there is no evidence! 

We need to be honest with ourselves and discard the fear that our mind has created. I do not deny the fact that we feel anxious whenever we are faced with an unfamiliar situation. In fact, it is healthy because it causes us to be on our game and to be aware of the situation. We can also consider the pros and cons of the new situation. 

My point is that we also need to know when we have created a unfounded fear regarding the situation. We need to discard those fears. We also need to become aware as to what caused those fears to surface: Lack of self-esteem? Narcissim? Lack of social skills? Shyness? Fear of failure?

Once we can dig down to the psychological well-spring from where the fear orignates, then we are more able to ignore and discard them. 

Next time you face a new opportunity or situation, rejoice in it. Look at the positives behind the situation. Use it as a mean of personal growth and also look inward to see if you have any “imagined fears”. If you find some, then chuck them away!