The tricky business of change
Our brains are stubborn. No, I’ll rephrase that. Our brains are efficient. When you’re taking in 11 million bits of information a second, you have to be. Let’s give our brains a hand for filtering out would amount to total overwhelm.. Great job, brain. Now it’s time to grow.
See, part of how your brain gets it all done is by streamlining tasks. As many physical and mental function as possible are running in the background. Have you ever opened the Task Manager on your computer? Lots of background processes, amiright? Just like your brain.
But ow some processes need a rewrite. Early on, you brain heard some stories and wrote those in with efficiency in mind. These stories may have been harsh or well-meaning words, painful incidents, or just the quiet subtext of daily life. They can be a coping mechanism or a worldview instilled in us.
Now this story runs on autopilot. Those programs that run in the background of your computer get updated. Well, now it’s our job to send an update. No longer under threat, we can shed the stories that shaped us.
You can forge new neural pathways with a message that helps you now. You want your brain to believe these affirmations, these mantras, these truths. But sometimes it feels like it’s just not getting through.
So what can you do?
Say it out loud
When we say things out loud, with feeling, the message is more likely to reach our subconscious and create new neural pathways over time.
Yes, it’s going to feel weird. Before you dismiss the idea, not wanting to feel like a goober, consider how easily disparaging words cross your lips. “I’m a terrible person.” “I don’t deserve you.” “I hate my body.” Even said in a joking way, these statements are harmful - and yet we have so little stigma around them. Why? Cultural conditioning. We learned to speak poorly of ourselves - out loud- because that was what we witnessed growing up in our homes, in school, on television.
Now is the time to recondition. Once you begin saying positive statements about yourself, feeling the words form, hearing them, push past the discomfort and know that you are doing yourself a world of good. It will be easier each time, and you’ll stop caring about what it may or may not look like.
2. Focus on one at a time
It may be tempting to pile on the positive affirmations. If this is where you feel led, go for it. In certain seasons, though, you may find you want to dial in to just one pain point. Carry that affirmation around with you and write it on your heart. Write it down, over and over. Say it out loud. Journal each day about the struggles you have with this statement and the ways you’ve overcome it. Where have you found it to be true in your life? What triggers you in this area? How do you set yourself up for success with this statement?
Meditation brings with it a whole host of benefits that will bring positive change to your life. One of them is that it changes your brain wave state. Um, what? Your brain operates on five different frequencies: alpha, beta, theta, delta, and gamma.. Alpha is the rational, getting-things,done state. When we meditate, our brain rests somewhere between beta and theta, the optimal state for reprogramming thoughts and behavior patterns. Slipping into this state could be like sliding a key into a lock, a breakthrough.
Sometimes people use a guiding mantra to keep their meditation on track. Live and Dare has a wonderfully comprehensive piece on the effects of sound on the body and how mantra meditation works.
4. Engage your senses
We learn better when we are moving and tuning into our body. Did you know that the part of the brain that processes learning is the same part that processes movement? Work the mantras into your everyday life, in little ways, as you engage with your senses. Perhaps you say one out loud with each yoga pose in your practice. Look at the affirmation card (seeing), feel the words on your lips (touch), and hear the words as you say them. Trace the letters with your finger. Write the mantra that resonates with you down in your journal, over and over. Seek out that mind-body connection at every step.
So now what?
Give these tactics a try. The more you say them, the more you’ll feel them. Emotion is a strong motivator for your brain so feel the weight and hope of the statements you’re embracing. Soon you’ll replace the old processes with new ones.