11 May REWIRE YOUR BRAIN FOR A HIGH5 LIFE
I am fascinated that we can literally change our brains. For so long neuroscientists held fast to the belief that the adult human brain was a fixed system with limited capacity for growth or change. How depressing was that? Thankfully, research and experience have shown us something different. The study and practice of neuroplasticity indicate an enormous amount of potential as far as expanding and changing our brains in many ways. I know it to be true because I’ve experienced it personally and have witnessed it in hundreds of others.
A Little Bit of Neuroplasticity History
…if history isn’t your thing you can skip to the next bold subheading although you might want to read the super cool examples. J
Did you know that there is evidence of scientists exploring the concept of neuroplasticity as early as the 1920s, although it didn’t arouse much interest until the 1960s. Even then, the technology to show what was actually going on in the brain wasn’t fully developed, so when neuroscientist Paul Bach-y-Rita conducted experiments in making blind people “see” using vibrations on their skin, he was only able to speculate on what was going on internally. That is the epitome of believe it and you will see it.
Now that we have amazing equipment that can measure brain activity fairly accurately, it’s obvious that these early experiments with neuroplasticity were more than just a passing fancy. It’s a real phenomenon and one that can mean significant change is still possible for each of us to tap into a whole new level of our potential.
(This is super cool) Long-term studies of London cabbies, for example, show an increase in posterior hippocampus gray matter at the end of their three to four years of training. Successful candidates are able to mentally navigate the city due to the increased processing power available to the part of their brain most involved in spatial navigation and long-term memory. Another study of the brains of string musicians showed that the areas of their brains corresponding to their left hands (their fingering hands) were enlarged compared to their own right hands, as well as the hands of non-musicians.
Is It Time for You to Do Some Rewiring?
Just like an electrician, we literally have to take out the old wiring and replace it with new. When you upgrade the wiring in a building you don’t replace it with some other old funky used wires, you upgrade to new better wires. When we rewire our brains we want to do the same.
One of my favorite messages to share while I’m training, is that anytime negative shows up for us in our life, positive is also available. We wouldn’t even recognize something as negative unless we were comparing it to something positive, which means positive is available. What’s crazy is that most of us have spent years and years wiring our brain to see the negative long before we see the positive.
Does that mean we throw our hands in the air and just succumb to negative thinking (hmm I guess that in itself is a negative thought). Of course not, however don’t beat yourself up when you have negative thoughts because in this scenario, multiplying a negative with a negative does not make it positive. So what to do…
PLAY THE 2:1 REWIRE GAME
Rewiring with the new, stronger, upgraded wire takes some time (kind of like we saw with those Cabbies in the UK). For most people, the quickest way to help move to a more High5 positive life, is simply shifting from seeing the negative, to finding the positive. To do that start playing the 2:1 Rewire Game in your life.
Here are the steps:
- Recognize when you are thinking negatively about something that happened. For most it’s default mode so just start watching your thoughts and one will show up soon enough.
- Then make a list (written is best) of why it’s negative … get it all out, you will likely see some fears, beliefs and patterns emerge because our emotions are powerful communicators.
- Now for every negative on your list write down two positives (hence 2:1 game). Take as long as you need, however you must have two positives for every negative (see below for why).
- Notice how you feel when you are focusing on the positives, rather than the negatives. That better feeling means the rewiring is underway.
- If one of those negative thoughts comes back up, use your list to refocus on the positive, strengthen that new wiring connection and get back to that better feeling.
You’ll notice that we don’t do a one for one replacement, one positive thought for each negative thought. That could lead to some faulty connections that are likely to break. Believe me, as soon as we lose focus, some of those old wires will be looking for an opportunity to re-unite and throw a pity party. Instead we are changing things up by stacking more positives into our brains by requiring two for one. This way we are reinforcing the new wiring so it will stick. While I suggest writing them down at the beginning, once you get more practiced you will end up making mental lists.
“Among other things, neuroplasticity means that emotions such as happiness and compassion can be cultivated in much the same way that a person can learn through repetition to play golf and basketball or master a musical instrument, and that such practice changes the activity and physical aspects of specific brain areas.” Andrew Weil M.D.
The 2:1 Rewire Game works for other types of thoughts that don’t benefit us as well. Let’s say your co-worker does something that annoys you. You can continue to be annoyed, or you can come up with two things that you like about him and shift your energy and choose patience or compassion.
Whatever you think about will grow. Instead of focusing on what you are “going through”, focus on what you are “going to”.
It’s up to you whether or not you want to take on rewiring your brain. It will take effort, practice, patience and likely even some vulnerability. The reward a High5 life … the kind of life where you feel like life itself is giving you a High5! I work on it every day and for me it’s been totally worth it. What do you want to rewire?
If you’d like to see some examples keep reading.
The elevator is out at the office and your office is on the 6th You are pissed because you were already running late.
- Be aware that you are viewing this situation as negative and are even looking around for who you can blame or complain to
- Make your list of what’s negative
- I’ll be late
- I’ll be sweaty
- Make your positive list – remember at least 2:1
- I will get extra steps on my Fitbit
- I get the opportunity to practice staying positive
- I can be supportive of the maintenance people who are clearly stressed … I won’t add to that
- I always have that extra shirt I keep in the office if I get too sweaty
- I have my phone and can dial into the meeting while I’m walking up so that I don’t miss anything
- Check in with how you are feeling. If you are feeling better, then you are in the rewiring process.
- Go back to your list if the negativity comes back up. Keep reaching for that better feeling. As you practice it will soon be a non-issue for you if the elevator goes out … you head for the stairs and keep on moving.
You just got laid off from your job.
- Become aware that right now you don’t see anything positive in this situation and you are at an emotional low. You recognize that and want to change it.
- Make your list of what’s negative
- I won’t have money coming in
- I have to look for a job
- My spouse will worry
- Make your positive list – remember at least 2:1
- I can get a job now that I like
- This is why I’ve been putting money into savings
- I can get caught up on some things around the house that have been adding stress to my life
- My spouse and I can use this opportunity to work on staying positive which we promised each other we would do
- I can find a job that will pay me what I’m worth
- The extra money will allow us to do more and take vacations
- There are so many great resources for finding a job
- My friend Jim said the other day that his company was hiring
- I can explore other areas of interest
- The environment in my last job wasn’t supportive, I now can find one that is
- I am surrounded by friends who have gone through this and can help me
- Check in with how you are feeling. If you are feeling better, then you are in the rewiring process. ALSO when you are in negative mode it’s hard to work up the desire to take action, when you find the positive you are now excited to take action! What you think about GROWS … if you are thinking about all of the challenges then the challenge grows. When you start thinking about the solution the solutions grow.
- Go back to your list if the negativity comes back up. Keep reaching for that better feeling. As you practice it will become easier.
Please come back and share in the comments how you were able to apply the 2:1 game in your life.