“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” – Buddha quote
There is actually science behind this profound quote – in that our thoughts and feelings create a chemical signal in our brains; they send messages that reinforce themselves over time. Every thought we have produces a chemical in our brain that sends a signal to the body to feel exactly how you are thinking. The feelings you have then generate a pulse that signals to the brain to think exactly the way you are feeling. And so the loop goes around.
In essence, continually thinking positive calming thoughts over time will become your norm; continually think negative thoughts, and that becomes your norm.
The good news is our brains can modify and change over time if, given the right instructions. Our brains are malleable rather than hard-wired which means we can change our mindset, and build more positive habits for ourselves. It takes time, practice and commitment but it’s very possible.
Let’s go a bit further into Understanding the Brain to understand why and how habits are formed. Firstly, our brain cells communicate with one another via ‘synaptic transmission’. This is where one brain cell releases a chemical (called neurotransmitter) that the next brain cell absorbs – this communication is “neuronal firing.”
Now what’s very important here is that when cells communicate frequently, the connection between them strengthens – it gets stronger. Messages that travel the same pathway in your brain over and over – begin to transmit faster and faster. Over time with enough repetition, they become automatic. A habit, an automatic response.
Negative thought processes follow this same pattern–the more we think about, or stew on a negative thought, the more entrenched the thought becomes – the cells are firing together strengthening. Negative and traumatic thoughts also tend to play on a “loop”– they play themselves repeatedly until you do something consciously to stop them. The more these negative thoughts loop, the stronger the neural pathways become, and the more difficult it becomes to stop them.
So it’s important to choose what you want to strengthen and what you want to weaken. Our brain can change every day as we experience new things (real or imagined). You can impact the physiology of your brain by changing your behaviours, attitudes, and perceptions. The thoughts you have can “rewire” the brain by strengthening these synaptic pathways and weakening less used ones.
So in essence our habitual thinking and mindset are just neural pathways firmly in place in your brain – like really old train tracks that have been around for years.
Some tips to creating new positive habits and changing your mindset –
The first step to breaking negative habits of thinking and feeling is to build self-awareness around yourself.
By starting firstly with self-awareness – really become aware of your emotional reactions. Are they worth the energy and reinforcement in your mind? Or can you choose to let it go and focus on something more positive?
Be kind to yourself … during this process but begin with self-awareness.
Choose your thoughts wisely
From self-awareness, start to think about how you can choose your thoughts. It does take time for this concept to ‘sink in’ but by consciously choosing positive thoughts or consciously choosing to let go of thoughts that are not healthy for you.
Create a positive thinking ritual – Repetition
Our habits of feeling and emotional responses are formed over time. So just as you have created negative habits you can create new ones. It does take time, commitment, and effort but the rewards can be incredible.
Our thoughts, emotions, and perception of the environment re-wire our brains, essentially shaping our reality. You might not think you have control, but your own chemistry actually creates your own reality which in turn affects your brain formation. It’s a fascinating process and something to really ‘think’ about – pardon the pun!
And my final tip is from Muhammed Ali who was a great believer in positive affirmations and thought –
It’s the repetition of affirmations (intentional thought) that lead to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
Claire Aristides, BA (Psych) Clinical Hypnotherapist, founder and creator of Mindology App an app to calm and empower the mindset available on apple and android. Mindology.App