In my last article I talk about the power of daydreaming. In this one, I take things a step further and focus on how thinking can help release automatic negative thoughts, and improve brain health. Thinking, in this instance, is thinking deliberately and consciously, which takes a certain amount of intent and energy. Furthermore, deliberate thinking is the key to recognising unwanted thoughts, the step necessary to change them. Moreover, as most of your thoughts are now habitual, they are run in your subconscious mind, beneath your conscious awareness.
Because these thoughts are outside your awareness, you may not even know you have any, or what they are. Moreover, exactly why taking time to discover them is essential for creating better ones. Additionally, negative thinking is bad for your brain and mental health and keeps you stuck in your past. Finally, unhelpful and negative thoughts hold you back from living the life you desire. Likewise, it is similar to driving down a freeway with the handbrake on. Forward progress will be nil, or at the most, slow and difficult.
We have around 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts every day
Science says we have about 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts every day, and 90% of these thoughts are the same thoughts as the day before. When you desire to change your life and create a new future, you must first become curious as to what you are specifically thinking. Taking time out for deliberate thinking is the equivalent to athletes who train with deliberate purposeful practice. Otherwise, when you repeat your same automatic negative thoughts every day, they simply give you more of the same. Your feelings match your thoughts and they influence more of the same thoughts. Furthermore, whatever you focus on, or think about the most will grow. The reason you may inadvertently be wondering why your life is the same or you are feeling stuck.
Being aware of automatic negative thoughts takes deliberate thinking and management of them
Research from Concordia University and fifteen other universities worldwide shows that 94 percent of people examined across six continents experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images and or impulses. While it is therefore normal to sometimes have automatic negative thoughts, the study ends with these important words:
‘It’s not the thoughts that are the problem but the way they are managed.’
Dr Caroline Leaf, communication pathologist, author and cognitive neuroscientist, states:
“Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking. When we hope, it is an activity of the mind that changes the structure of our brain in a positive and normal direction.”
Your thoughts influence your biology, neural circuits, hormones and gene expression. Negative thinking, especially unchecked automatic negative thoughts, damages the brain and body. Furthermore, they affect your mental and physical health. Having the same thoughts’ day in day out equals the same results, These results create your reality and your sense of identity, personality. Therefore, the answer lies with rewriting your story and rewiring your brain.
The solution lies in identifying automatic negative thoughts, rewriting your story and rewiring your brain with new thoughts
If your current results have come into fruition from your habitual thinking, then it makes sense that you will have to change your thinking and shift your personality to create new results. Additionally, if your results are not as you would like them to be, chances are you have some automatic negative thoughts running behind the scenes. It is these that need to be investigated and bought to your awareness. In the words of Socrates, the wise philosopher:
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
So, how do we do this? You literally have to take time to become aware of what you are saying and thinking, feeling and reacting to. It is important to write them down as writing helps illuminate patterns. If you discover thoughts or patterns you don’t want, the next step is to make a conscious decision to change. As simple as it sounds, it will take desire, commitment and patience. In science there is an expression that says, ‘nerve cells that wire together, fire together.’ This simply highlights the importance of repetition and consistency as a key for creating new programs to create a better future. Furthermore, consistency is the key for all change as NASA highlights in their famous ‘goggles’ experiment.
By the time you are thirty five years old most of the way you operate has become automatic
It is also well known that by the time you are 35 years old, your same thinking patterns, behaviours and beliefs have become habits, programs running in your subconscious mind, your body. When you have done the same thing over and over again, you have the same set of programs, which, independent of you, are running your life.
And here is where it goes wrong. When you have habitual automatic negative thoughts, we go about changing them in the wrong way. We try to change by telling ourselves, using the 5% of our mind, our conscious mind, which goes against the 95% of our now memorised programs running in our bodies. The ones with greater power will always win! Furthermore, no amount of arguing, ignoring or berating yourself will win. Ultimately, they can lead to health problems, or at the least, inconsistent forward movement.
This lack of forward movement is exactly what happened to me. One day, when I was out on my windsurf, I decided to sail to the other side of the lake. However, unknown to me, the fin was jammed. And without a fin, you have no hope of steering the windsurf in the right direction.
When everything is aligned you create magnificent forward momentum
No amount of moving my weight on the board, pulling at the boom, (steering wheel), grit or determination would take me in the right direction. You can’t see the fin, as it’s beneath the water, exactly like your subconscious mind. However, it has immense power and is a major force in steering your life. When the fin works, and you control the boom, manage the winds and external conditions, you can enjoy the speed and freedom of speeding across the open waters. Without this conscious control, you could end up anywhere.
It is exactly like driving a car. When you first learn to windsurf, it takes a lot of energy, focus and concentration. When you learn to drive, it almost becomes automatic, as if your body has learnt how to drive for you. It memorises your actions, thoughts and emotions, so your brain is like a record of the past.
The plasticity of the brain is what helps you release automatic negative thoughts and rewire new programs of thought
To create a healthier, successful mindset, you must harness the powers of your mind. You need discipline and commitment and maybe a system to remind you, to listen carefully, deliberately to your inner chatter. Only when you listen carefully and intentionally can you illuminate your patterns of thought that are holding you back.
The key is first to observe your thoughts. Take time and write them down, noting any thoughts and beliefs or statements that do not serve you. Becoming aware helps you choose different responses instead of the same old reactions. Furthermore, writing them down, highlights patterns and gives insight into the type of intrusive thoughts that are blocking your success. When we harness the brain’s plasticity by using the mind to build positive patterns of thinking, over time they become hard-wired into our brain. Ultimately, you replace automatic negative thinking with automatic positive thinking.
Deliberate thinking also improve brain health and intelligence
Finally, deliberate thinking is good for your brain. Caroline Leaf, in her research in the eighties, has shown how intentional, deliberate thinking changes intellectual, cognitive, emotional, social and academic performance. Furthermore, taking time out to think allows us to examine our internal lives and develop our unique imagination. And that has to be a good outcome.
So, take some time out every day to think deliberately and allow your mind to wander, so those automatic negative thoughts can bubble up. Furthermore, write them down and note the unhelpful ones. Finally, capture any positive and helpful ones, so you can hold onto them and strengthen them. Not only are you helping your mind and brain health, efficiency and improve intelligence, you are living the ‘self-examined life.’
About the Author
Mandy Napier is a Global High Performance Mindset Coach. who is dedicated to supporting high achievers fulfil their potential and achieve extraordinary results professionally and personally. Transformations are the norm, and results guaranteed.
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