Our brains are without a doubt the most complex thing we have yet discovered in our universe. From controlling our entire nervous system through complex brain stem functions that allow us to breathe, feel and blink to creating memories and links within moments. Capable of the most extraordinary of tasks and able to withstand and endure the most intense situations, our brains quite literally define who we are as people. As impossible and imposing as it seems, we can even wire it to think differently. There is so much that we do not know, and so much we can look forward to discovering. Here are my four favourite things about the brain:
Your brain doesn’t have any pain receptors. It’s the reason surgeons can perform brain surgery on patients who are awake: they may be allergic to anesthesia or the surgeons want to make sure no vision or motor controls are damaged during the procedure. The brain acts as the central command center through a series of brain stem functions for the entire nervous system, yet has no nerves. It doesn’t feel a thing.
You have between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s almost one per second. From which pair of socks you’ll wear today to how much toothpaste you’ll squeeze onto your brush to what you will have for dinner tonight, you are constantly thinking, even when you are trying not to. Our brains are made up of over a trillion connections. We can store limitless amounts of information, which is a good thing, considering the 800 thoughts you’ll have while reading this article.
You can’t surprise yourself. One of the first senses the brain learns is touch. It can tell the difference between external and self-touch and through brain stem function can anticipate unimportant sensations, which is why it is impossible to tickle yourself. Try it and see. You won’t be able to sneak anything past your brain.
Your brain creates your memories. When your eyes are open, your brain is effectively lying to you. The occipital lobe creates a reality with what it presumes surrounds us, because our brains can’t absorb every detail at once. Memories are also not recorded by the brain; certain memorable moments are stored, and the rest of the story is filled in by previous experiences. Ever notice how people who are really good story tellers seem to live more interesting or exciting lives?
As powerful and programmed as they are, our brains are not difficult to rewire. A chemical reaction begins with the act of thinking. The more we think about a particular thing, the easier it is to think about and the stronger the thought becomes. There is no difference between the imagined and the reality in your brain, it can’t tell the difference. To successfully rewire your brain, you must visualize what you want to see happen, so your brain believes it’s real. Similarly, the intentions need to be supported by your actions. Doubt hinders your ability.
Unfortunately, our brains are instinctively wired to think negatively. This is traced back to the caveman days where the mentality was ‘eat or be eaten.’ It made sense then, but not so much now. Our history books teach us that our ancestors survived incredible odds, and dealt with terribly harsh conditions, all mentalities that have been passed down from generation to generation and which makes it almost a given that we tend towards the negative. Not that we think negatively all the time, but our brains are trained through evolution to spot the scary stuff first. We have learnt from our experiences and our default coping mechanism is to respond to the uncomfortable first, in a myriad of different ways. But all is not lost.
We can rewire our brains to think differently, to respond differently. We can eliminate the negative and bring forth the positive. These simple steps will help you on your way to happier, healthier and better thinking:
- Focus on the positive. Spend more time thinking about things that make you happy. Let your brain and body enjoy the moment. The more you think about positive thoughts and let yourself think these thoughts, the easier it will become.
- The moment you feel a negative thought appear, stop. Immediately switch to a positive thought, memory, or experience. Your brain will quickly learn to do this instinctively.
- Doubt hinders your ability. Believe in yourself, your capabilities and strengths. Know without a shadow of a doubt that you can, that you will change the way your brain thinks.
- Be consistent. Decide that these positive thoughts are the ones you will focus on, and do it. Make the conscious decision that this is the way you are moving forward in your life and never look back!