Retraining the Brain – Shifting Focus

The world is full of a lot of fear and a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment. I just think people need to start shifting their focus onto joy and happiness. As corny as it sounds, we need to make a shift.

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
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Ellen DeGeneres


Continuing the posts on Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits.   Now on to steps two and three:

2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.

3. Shift your focus.

Habits are hard to break, we all know that, but one thing that helps immensely is observing, really paying attention to how destructive the habit is. Whether it’s spending more money than I can really afford; biting the cuticles around my nails; or drinking more alcohol than I want to. By observing and really paying attention to the consequences, I can start to realign my focus.

The way I do this is by firstly focusing really hard on the bad habit, I shine a spot light on it, brutally.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out.  By writing down and clearing out all the negative stuff that is part of the bad habit, it helps make room for positive change. Recent research published in the journal Psychology Today shows that writing down negative thoughts and negative past experiences and then ripping them up and throwing them away actually helps to change those thoughts and habits.

In Figjam Workshops Creative Empowerment Workshop, participants consistently say that doing this exercise has a remarkably healing effect.  Try it!  Take a big sheet of paper and write down all the negative effects associated with the bad habit, everything you can think of. And when you feel like you have gotten everything out, rip it up.  Stamp on it!  Scream NO at it! Burn it!  You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

Then, Shift the Focus.  To create a new neural pathway, you need to focus on what it is you want. Start focusing on all the positives associated with not having that habit.  For example, healthy cuticles or healthy nails.  When I wanted to stop biting my cuticle, I rubbed lotion into my cuticles several times a day.  I kept my nails shaped, and focused on how much better my hands looked.  Yes, I know it sounds really simplistic, but in a way it is.  This is how neuroplasticity works.  It’s just about getting new neural pathways started. Remember what Dr. Rick Hanson says about self-directed neuroplasticity – it is ongoing. Our brains are changing all the time. We can choose what we focus on and what new neural pathways are being created!

I want to close with a fascinating TED talk by neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms. A wonderful look inside the brain.

 

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And if you do use the ‘Write and Rip’ technique – how it worked for you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

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Staying Present . . . even on an emotional roller coaster

“If you hold back on emotions—if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them—you can never get beyond them, you’re too busy being afraid.”

– Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie)


The past couple of weeks have been incredibly emotional. My husband, Jeff left for a year to work with The British Council doing teacher training in Borneo!  Working with developing countries in the field of education has been a goal of Jeff’s for many years, a goal he put off to be present with his family, be a good partner, be a good dad, be responsible.  So for the most part, I’m thrilled for Jeff!  It’s going to be a fantastic year for him, amazing experiences, a great job, etc. AND, I’m bereft and in pain.  In the weeks leading up to Jeff  leaving, I was blown away at the emotions flowing through me.  And I’m so grateful that I’ve done the work I’ve done regarding my own personal growth, so I could be present with the intense emotional roller coaster.  Often, I would be doing something quite mundane, and suddenly I was overwhelmed with sadness and I would sob and feel intense grief just flood me.  But the interesting thing is when I was present to it, allowed the sadness and tears to overtake me, the emotions would rush through me, in waves, then dissipate and be gone.  Whereas when I tried to push them away, and stay “in control” and try to cover them up and stay busy, I would get a knot in my stomach, feel sick and feel overwhelmed and completely drained.  It was only by letting the emotions come, when they came and flow through me that I was able to keep going.

Emotions are fascinating to me.  To think that they are just part of our brain chemistry is a weird thing to get my head around. Neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms does an interesting short TED talk where he demonstrates a new way to use fMRI to show brain activity — thoughts, emotions, pain — while it is happening. In other words, you can actually see how you feel!  Kind of an interesting way to look at it.  I’m not sure what would happen to those brain waves and chemicals that become our emotions if we try to push them away and pretend they are not there.  But from my experience, I know in my body, it is not good to struggle against my emotions.  When I allow them, they move through me fluidly and I can stay somewhat sane!  When I deny them, I get sick and feel crazy.  And that is a good enough reason to stay emotional for me.

 

 

Please let me know what how you deal with emotional roller coasters.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.