- Overcome excessive negative thinking and focus more on the positives
- How the way we think can change our brain
- Using both focused attention and daydreaming to promote useful changes in the brain
- Optimise brain plasticity and good brain health
Is your brain working for you or against you?
When I was experiencing a lot of stress in my life; I found myself trapped in a cycle of negative thinking. The build-up of stress had been a gradual process; like a dripping tap filling a bucket. It wasn’t until I felt completely overwhelmed (as if my bucket of stress was overflowing) that I realised I needed help.
And so it was that I eventually embarked on a course of hypnotherapy which finally broke the cycle; I was focusing less on negative ways of thinking and bringing my attention to the positive aspects of my life. I had become so submerged in doom and gloom thoughts that I had failed to notice what was good. It was like lifting my gaze and viewing my life from a much broader perspective. Instead of working against me, my brain was becoming my ally; encouraging me and assisting me in getting closer to my goals.
Our brains are plastic
Just as going to the gym can change the shape of the muscles in our bodies; so too can we change our brain. Evidence shows that our thoughts affect the physical structure of our brains. I sometimes refer to my hypnotherapy sessions as being like a brain gym, where we are looking at strengthening the useful, solution-focused parts of our mind. The aim is to increase synaptic connections that create helpful neural connections that get us closer to our desired change.
Exercise your mind
The more we increase this activity; the more enduring these neural connections become. In this way; we can change our thought patterns, even if they have been there for a long time. As I began to create more positive ways of thinking, I changed the circuitry in my brain. I started to make different choices that more closely matched my new ways of thinking.
In his exploration of how pathways in the brain are formed and reinforced through repetition; neuropsychologist Donald Hebb coined the phrase: ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together’.
Psychologist and acclaimed writer Dr Rick Hansen PhD draws on science as he explains how you can change your brain to create lasting happiness and well-being and how ‘what flows through the mind sculpts the brain.’ Changing the way we think can transform our lives.
The power of focused attention
Research shows that just imagining something can activate the same parts of our brains that we would use if we were doing it. For example, if we imagine an object our primary visual cortex lights up, as if we are seeing that object for real. Because, in this way, our brains can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, we can use visualisation or focused attention to our advantage.
When I had to have an MMR scan; I began to feel anxious about being in an enclosed space. I shut my eyes and visualised myself on a beach. I can smell the sea air as I picture myself in my deck chair with a nice cool drink. Hypnotherapy helped me to change the way I think. This is an image I have often created during self-hypnosis and I felt myself immediately feeling calmer and more in control. As my fear left me; I was able to take the scan in my stride. We are shaping our brains all the time. Focused attention promotes neuroplasticity and the formation of long term changes in the brain. Clients are often amazed at how hypnotherapy can help them overcome phobias they have had for many years.
By shutting off external stimuli and bringing our attention within; we can go into ‘idle’ mode. When our brains become calmer and quieter; we can begin to perceive things in a new way; make connections and have moments of insight. It is as if we are reconfiguring the maps in our brain and coming up with new ways of perceiving our current situation. This is encouraged through solution focused hypnotherapy, which can help you find creative solutions to the challenges you are having.
Good brain health
Just as we exercise our bodies; we can promote good mental health by exercising useful thoughts. In this way we can grow and strengthen useful neural pathways in our brains. Physical Exercise supports this process by stimulating the growth of new neurons and synapses; thus increasing brain plasticity and the fostering of new ideas/thought processes. So getting down to the gym is a good idea too.