In recent years, we have become more aware of the neuroplasticity of our brains and how our thoughts and feelings are affected by not only what we are taught, but also, by everything we are exposed to during a day. In other words, learning is occurring all the time. The brain never shuts off. Whatever we are exposing it to, it is processing. Much of what we are processing we are not even aware of. Think of it like a movie camera. It is constantly taking pictures of what it sees, and recording what it hears, and all of that information is not only stored, but also organized, helping to create our thoughts and beliefs. This information creates networks or “roads,” which are then available to communicate this data. This film that your brain is recording is the unconscious lesson that we constantly receive. How aware are you of exactly what kind of film you are creating every day? For instance, what did your brain learn today? I was just wondering………………….
Of course, we all know that we are educated in our schools and we are also taught lessons by our families. Our culture is also a major influence of our beliefs and values. We learn this not from books and not necessarily through instruction, but by viewing what our neighbors do, how they behave, how they dress, and how they think about things in general. If we are never really exposed to another culture, then we will most likely remain unchanged. However, the more we expose ourselves to, the more this information is synthesized in our brains and we become fuller than we were and different from the people with whom we grew up.
We also learn from the media we watch and listen to and our opinions get formed this way. Our brains create a neural pathway for these thoughts and beliefs. The stronger the belief, the more deeply entrenched is the neural pathway. Divergent thoughts become difficult to hold onto because the neural network is heavily influenced by what information goes into it. It becomes slanted by the information to which we expose ourselves. This is why it is so difficult for us to see things from another viewpoint. It is also the reason that once we have formed an opinion of another person, it is very difficult for us to view them in a different way when contradictory information is received.
Fears are developed when we tell ourselves over and over again that we are afraid of something. Every time we are faced with the feared object, we reinforce it with our thought system. This eventually creates a really intensely rutted “road,” one which we are unable to escape. The good news is that fears can be overcome with self- talk. I did this experiment on myself years ago to overcome my fear of flying. Filled with fear, I booked a flight four months in advance. Then, every time I drove somewhere, I talked to myself about how I loved flying, how everyone else likes it, that if all these other people can do it, I can do it and so on. I talked about looking out the window, enjoying the take-off and landing and every aspect of the trip I could imagine. Also, I made a point of doing this orally in order to overcome any lingering fearful thoughts that might try to creep into my head. When you are speaking, you whole brain has to focus on the words you are saying. The morning of my flight I remember feeling somewhat zombie-like. There was no fear. I just got on to the plane and enjoyed the trip. My fear of flying for 29 years was overcome through self-talk! Through my own self talk effort, my brain listened and created a new neural pathway that loved, instead of feared flying!
Because your brain is listening and recording all of the time, it is really important to try to become more consciously aware of those “drifting” thoughts. Try to do a periodic check-in to determine what’s really going into your brain. What are you thinking about? Is it a healthy thought? Is it productive for you? Are you terrorizing yourself? Are you making yourself depressed or anxious by obsessing over something in the past or in the future? Learn to change the movie channel if your thoughts are unhelpful. Avoid negative thinking so that your brain will not create neural pathways that will be difficult to overcome.
Instead, practice affirmations and positive self talk. It will never harm you to think positively, but it could harm you if you continue to let negative thinking persist. Stress caused by negative and worrisome thoughts is the progenitor of illness. That’s right! Thinking bad thoughts can actually make you ill! Your self talk may also be a determining factor of your success. Remember, your computer brain is actually uploading your self-talk data and will create your belief system about yourself. If you are already lacking confidence, then use verbal affirmations to begin to overcome it by creating a new neural pathway for success. If you want to better understand your moods, then just listen to your self-talk. Make sure that your brain is being fed information that is nourishing for your mind and soul. Are you willing to make the effort to improve your thinking? I was just wondering…………………………………