I’ve lived a fairly colorful life with my husband Roy and continue to do so. We’ve had lots of interesting, bizarre and unusual experiences. Many were fun some not so much. Needless to say I’ve had more than my fair share of stressful situations. I didn’t handle things all to well for many years. And then I learned what is possibly the most important thing I’ve learned in my life. That is the idea that what we think plays HUGE in how awesome or un-awesome life is for us. I learned this about a decade ago and have continued to study the concepts of how our brain pretty much controls our lives.
Now I’m not referring to some ambiguous, altruistic, meta-physical guru-istic feel good concepts. I’m talking cold hard science. I need to know the “why’s” behind things so I study and read incessantly. And I’ve found the topic of how our brain governs most aspects of our lives to be beyond phenomenal. It puts complete and utter power and control smack in our laps. Which is where I like it. I’ve been reading even more lately on the actual science and physiology of our brains. I need this type of info dumbed down quite a bit so I find books that present i in laypersons terms. I just finished reading “Rewire Your Brain” by Dr. John Arden which does a fairly decent job.
I want to share the gist of this whole concept for those who might not be aware of it and find it as interesting as I do:
1. A Couple Examples of How Thoughts Affect Us Physically
A. Ulcers are created entirely by our thoughts.
B. Placebo Effect: These are used in drug studies and many times work as well or better than the actual drug only because people “think” they are getting a real drug.
2. The Brain changes chemically and biology depending on our experiences and thoughts.
Our experiences change the way our brain biologically functions known as neuroplasticity. When we experience, do and think things our brains cells will connect or disconnect using an electrical charge referred to as “firing”. We literally create new neural connections or pathways in our brain. The more we do a certain thing the stronger specific cells connections become. This is what makes things easier the longer we do them and also why changing habits can be so stinking difficult. It’s not that we are a bunch of weak sucks… it’s that we have rewired our brain to do something over a long period of time. This is why some people can meet trials and tribulations with calmness and others fall apart. The same event can cause widely different reactions in different people depending on how they have wired their brain.
This is why it is so important to live life in a way that is least stressful and where we meet problems as things to overcome and learn from not to overwhelm us. When we stress continually we build stronger connections between certain cells and it becomes easier for us to worry and harder for us to not worry. Luckily the opposite it also true.
The more frequently you induce a particular state, such as calmness or hope, the greater is the chance that that state will become a trait. The more often you activate the neurons that represent that state, the easier it will be to induce that state again, and the more likely it will be that the feeling of calmness or hope will become a stable trait of your affective-style set point. (Arden, John B. Rewire Your Brain p. 172)
2. Stress releases the steroid hormone cortisol.
Cortisol is a necessary hormone. However, when it is over-released, such as when we stress frequently, it causes all kinds of physical damage to the body in innumerable ways. Hence, too much stress makes us sick.
“… the release of cortisol damages many systems when an increased level is extreme and prolonged…. Stress is chronic, wear and tear on the body can add up to what has been called allostatic load. This results from chronic high levels of cortisol and norepinephrine. The health problems that can build up over a lifetime include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis (blocked arteries), abdominal obesity, neural atrophy, cognitive deficits, anxiety, and depression. (Arden, John B. Rewire Your Brain p. 188, 181)
The reason this knowledge of how the brain works in regards to our thoughts is so important to know is it gives us complete control over our lives and how we view them and even our health to a great degree. We can change our brains by training ourselves to think differently. This takes constant diligence but, as we spoke of above, the more you do it the easier it gets. I’ve done it myself, and continue to do so, and I can attest to the fact it is indeed life altering.
UPCOMING POST: Downloadable Signs to tape up to help you in your quest to think happy thoughts.
MORE INFO AND RESOURCES
Great quote by Dr. Joseph Dispenza that summarize these concepts. Its from the award winning documentary “What the Bleep Do We Know!”
The brain is made up of tiny nerve cells called ‘neurons’. These neurons have tiny branches that reach out and connect to other neurons to form a neural net….. We know physiologically that nerve cells that fire together wire together. If you practice something over and over, those nerve cells have a long-term relationship. If you get angry on a daily basis, if you get frustrated on a daily basis, if you suffer on a daily basis, if you give reason for the victimization in your life–you’re rewiring and reintegrating that neural net on a daily basis. That neural net now has a long-term relationship with all those other nerve cells called an “identity.” We also know that nerve cells that don’t fire together no longer wire together. They lose their long-term relationship because every time we interrupt the thought process that produces a chemical response in the body–every time we interrupt it, those nerve cells that are connected to each other start breaking the long-term relationship.
Other Interesting Facts:
The brain does not know the difference between what is imagines and what you actually do.
Not only does behavior change the structure of the brain through neuroplasticity; just thinking about or imagining particular behaviors can change brain structure as well. For example, researchers shown that simply imagining a session of piano practice contributes to neuroplasticity in the area of the brain associated with the finger movements of playing the piano. Thus, mental practice alone contributes to the rewiring of the brain. (Arden, John B. Rewire Your Brain p. 10)
Research with EEGs has shown that the electrical activity produced by the brain is identical whether we are thinking about doing something or actually doing it. (McTaggart, Lynne “The Intention Experiment” p. 132.)
You can literally turn your genes off and on with your thoughts.
Genes lay out potential and vulnerabilities, but they do not dictate your thoughts, your feelings, or your behavior. … You can even turn genes on or off with your behavior. (Arden, John B. Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life pp. 1-2.)
Below are just a few movies and books I’ve watched and read on the topic that helped me to rewire my own brain.
“Rewire Your Brain” Book
Explains exactly how our brain works.
“The Intention Experiment” Book
A book FULL of research and experiments that will blow you away.
“What the Bleep Do We Know” DVD
Unique documentary that illustrates in a fun way how the brain works.
“Loving What Is” Book
This book helps you view situations in your life in a way that allows you to remove all stress. The author actually offers the basics of what to do free on her site. The book just gives many examples. Her Free Resources
There are hundreds of books and resources on the topic of learning to master your thoughts. Most have the same underlying theme and any of them would be helpful.