Your Mind, Your Experience. How's it going?
We are in an exciting time in the history and development of human beings. No, not the harrowing pandemic kind of exciting. I'm talking about neuroplasticity and the immediate ability to change what's going on inside the noggin. According to dictionary.com, neuroplasticity is "the capacity of the nervous system to develop new neuronal connections."
What does this mean to the average person? Your thoughts matter. #yourmind When thoughts are repetitive, they reinforce a pathway in the brain making the pathway stronger. It's like lifting weights. The more I do bicep curls, the bigger my biceps get. Likewise, if I experience chronic thoughts of anger, indecision, low self worth, etc. I'm reinforcing a neural pathway that is incredibly unproductive. The problem is, thoughts become automatic and there are around 60,000 of them per day! #negativethoughts #thoughtsmatter
According to Dr. Daniel Amen, who coined the term ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) in the 1990's, you have to discipline your mind and squash the ants. "Every single time you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals. Every time you have a sad, hopeless, mad, cranky, unkind, judgmental, or helpless thought, your brain immediately releases chemicals that make your body feel awful. Your hands get cold and wet, your muscles get tense, your heart beats faster, and your breathing becomes shallower. Additionally, the activity in your frontal and temporal lobes decreases which negatively affects your judgment, learning, memory.
"The opposite is also true – whenever you have a happy, hopeful, loving, kind, or positive thought, your brain releases a completely different set of chemicals. Your hands get warmer and dryer, your breathing becomes deeper and more regular, your muscles relax, your blood pressure decreases, and your brain works better." (https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/number-one-habit-develop-order-feel-positive/)
What can you do if you're stuck in negative thought loops and they've become automatic? Identify how many you have. #mindfulness Do a one minute sampling of the thoughts in your head and if you feel like documenting, write them down. Next, learn to "tap" on them. Tapping is a do-it-yourself stress relief tool based on the 5000 year old practice of Chinese acupuncture which uses meridians, or lines down the body to connect points in our hands, feet, arms and legs to our body organs. With tapping we use those meridians and "tap" four points on the face when stress arises. The act of tapping releases stress by interrupting your thoughts (pictures, memories, feelings, movies, sensations.) This positively alters your neural process. Tapping basically squashes automatic negative thoughts.
Another way to change the mind from automatic and unproductive thoughts, is to find a few pictures that elicit feelings of joy, calm and relaxation. Then look at them throughout the day. As Amen noted, this releases happy chemicals that change your mind and your body on the spot.