9 Pillars of Brain Health – Re-Grow Your Brain and Memory at Any Age
Brain Health Pillar #5:
Change your thoughts for a healthier life
“I think, therefore I am.“
– Renè Descartes
I met a woman the other day who swears she’s never been sick in her life. Prior to becoming a brain health specialist, I would have never believed her.
I do now.
While many doctors claim illnesses, diseases and sicknesses are genetic, let me be clear:
You do NOT have a predetermined genetic destiny.
A few decades ago, the scientific community declared that most diseases we experience are a direct result of our genetic makeup. Since then, they’ve quietly changed their tune to acknowledge that both our internal AND external environments play a role in activating and deactivating particular genes… and THIS is the real picture behind most diseases.
Did you know?
Less than 5% of diseases today are from single gene disorders, while a whopping 95% of all illnesses and diseases can be traced to lifestyle choices, chronic stress, and toxic factors in the environment.
Let me say that again:
95% of our mental and physical issues are not created by our genes, but by factors of our internal and external environments.
The environment around us has a direct impact in shaping who we are, how we think, how we act and react…
Basically, your environment creates your personality.
And of course your personality has a direct impact on your emotional and mental experiences, aka: your “programming.”
Do Memories Affect Our… Personalities?
You can think of your emotions and mental programming as the end products of your past experiences, which we continue to revisit in the form of memories.
And these memories become the framework of your entire internal environment.
What I mean by this is that as we experience life’s joys, heartaches, loves, losses, anger, jealousy, regret, and celebrations, each of these experiences get configured into the structure of your brain as a reference point for the future.
Every waking moment, your brain is receiving information from the external environment, and referring back to your database of past experiences (a.k.a.: memories) to determine how to understand what’s happening and respond.
(You can see an entertaining and simply genius example of this in the Disney / Pixar movie called Inside Out. Definitely worth watching on your next movie night.)
By the time we’re young adults, most of us have experienced some level of trauma or bad experiences that left a mental and emotional “aftertaste” in our everyday lives…
And from the moment we had those experiences, all our future decisions, actions and reactions have been drawing upon what we learned.
So in many ways, our memories direct our future.
But this also keeps us in a loop… often a loop that leads us right back to the same result of our original memories.
Joe Dispenza says in his book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: “Your thoughts have consequences so great that they create your reality.”
Memories vs Reality
Think about it:
If your thoughts create your current reality…
And your reality is defined by your past thoughts …
You’re producing the same environment and experience for yourself day after day after day…
And without conscious intervention, your environments can become a feedback loop of past experiences that start to control your life.
You’re not broken— this process is hard-wired into your brain.
In neuroscience, we refer to this as Hebb’s law: Nerve cells that fire together, wire together.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s say you’re walking to a friend’s house. To get there, you usually walk around a large green field, but today you realized it would be shorter to walk through the field. As you walk, you carve a small path through the grass.
As you walk this new path every day, it gets more and more permanently engrained in the field. A couple weeks later, other people notice the path and start using it as well.
Eventually after a year of foot traffic, the city puts in a two-lane bike path through the field, as it’s become the fastest and most efficient route.
Your new path has n ow been cemented in.
Your thoughts and brain programming work exactly like this.
If you continually activate the same thought paths and nerve cells— literally thinking in specific ways— it becomes easier and easier for these same nerve cells to fire together in the same way the next time.
Eventually, these patterns become developed “highways” in your brain for those specific thoughts and emotions.
And once they’re formed, it can be EXTREMELY difficult to re-route the traffic on those highways.
To do so, you have to bring in a whole crew to tear up the cement, plow the path, plant new grass seeds, and keep watering it to grow back into a field.
It takes time… and a lot of work.
But, just like replacing a highway, it’s simply a process that requires some effort.
Thoughts vs Emotions… What’s the connection?
Chemically, your brain neurons want to fire in a sequence your brain recalls from the past.
Once networks of neurons are activated through a thought or emotion, your brain and body produce chemicals and hormones specific to the pattern of those thoughts and emotions.
Effectively, you begin to feel exactly what you’re thinking.
We’ve all experienced this.
You might have a sexy thought while sitting at your desk… and noticed your body physically react to those thoughts alone.
Or if you had a bad argument with a co-worker, just thinking about that argument might get your blood boiling and your heart pounding as though you’re in the heat of battle— even though the argument happened two days ago.
This connective “firing” is why it is so hard to change.
Your thoughts trigger physical reactions in your body, which reacts as though the thought is a situation happening in REAL TIME.
To respond to the “situation”, your body sends hormones and chemicals racing through your body, which then triggers more thoughts about the “situation”…
And at this point, you are literally experiencing all of this in real time once more.
If the thoughts are negative, you can see how this quickly leads to a downward spiral.
This is all part of human life, but if you get stuck in negative thoughts— which are constantly triggering hormones to deal with the “situation”— it can become physically dangerous to your health.
Stress and negative thinking over prolonged periods is physically toxic to your health.
Take the argument with your co-worker.
The longer you replay the conversation in your head and remain in a stressed state of mind, you continue to release stress chemicals throughout your body.
Over time, these stress chemicals kill.
(You can read more about the many dangers of stress on your health here: https://simplesmartscience.com/stress-and-your-brain/)
So the question is:
Is it possible to change your thoughts and create a healthier, more balanced internal environment— and a healthier, more balanced external environment?
Absolutely. You can easily think your body into almost any state.
Even if you are clinically depressed, you CAN use funny, happy thoughts to stop negative thoughts in their tracks.
It just takes practice. Lots of practice.
Does positive thinking really WORK?
Yes, it works.
Why? Because negative emotions aren’t “real.” They’re simply reactions to thoughts in your head.
Studies show that many— if not most— of our illnesses are created from these toxic, unbalanced chain reactions from mind to body— and a lot of those illnesses aren’t “real” either.
In fact, doctors have found that some people with Multiple Personality Disorder can have different illnesses and conditions in one personality versus the other. One personality might have severe allergies to something, while another personality in the SAME body does not.
Yes, a lot of what you experience really is all in your head.
Another example has been found in identical twins who share the exact same genes, where a serious illness can manifest in one twin, but not the other.
Same genes, different outcomes.
Which proves again: You do not have a genetic destiny.
But, clearing out negative memories— and the damaging negative thoughts that go with them— can be extremely healing and life changing.
Check out this cool story:
In a study done in Japan, researchers wanted to see what effect our state of mind has on diseases.
To do this, they to ok a group of test subjects who all had diabetes and were dependent on insulin, and split them into two groups. Next, all participants had their blood fasting and blood sugar levels tested to establish a baseline.
Then, they had one group watch a comedy show for an hour, while the other group watched a dry lecture. All the participants then ate the same delicious meal… and then their blood glucose levels were checked again.
Here’s what happened:
In the group who watched the boring lecture, the test subjects’ blood sugar levels had raised enough that they needed an insulin shot.
But in the group who watched the comedy show— you’ve probably guessed it:
Their blood sugar rose only half the amount of the lecture group— an amount that didn’t’ require insulin.
Your mental state directly controls your body.
What exactly are thoughts?
Our thoughts are energy.
They are electrical impulses generated by your brain— which can easily be measured by an EEG.
So to change your thoughts, you need to be able to control that energy.
At the HeartMath Research Center in California, they ran a test in which they had healers hold test tubes of DNA in their hands.
The first group of healers held the test tubes after thinking about strong, elevated emotions— such as love and appreciation— for exactly two minutes.
Nothing happened to the DNA.
The second group focused with a strong intent to change the DNA (a thought), but were instructed not to enter into a positive emotional state. No DNA change.
The third group combined the two. Instead of just thinking and feeling positive thoughts, they also set an intention to unwind the DNA. The combination of the emotion and the thought led to significant changes to the DNA.
In some cases the DNA unwound as much as 25%!
The Formula for Happy Thoughts
Thought (intention) + Feeling (emotion) = Change
So the important question is, how can YOU start to change the well-engrained thoughts that don’t serve you?
The first thing I tell everyone is to start a gratitude practice.
Here’s what I do:
First, I write two lists every day
- A list of what I am grateful for that day
- A list of gratitude for what hasn’t happened yet. I create the experience I want— and then give thanks as if it has already happened.
The next step is CRITICAL to changing your thoughts:
I observe my thoughts throughout the day. Observation is the first component to change.
To create change in your own life, keep track of your negative thoughts and write down…
- What the thought was
- When it happened
- What happened right before you had the thought?
- What happened right after you had the thought – in your body and your actions?
To give you a personal example of what I’m currently working to change:
I get very uptight when someone loses integrity around an expectation that they set with me. My heart races, my mind re-lives every past time this person has disappointed me, and my body and mind go through the SAME motions. This creates a chemical battlefield in my brain and body.
THERE IS NO NEED FOR THIS.
I know that when this happens, I’m sending so much cortisol through my system it is eating away at my brain!
I also know that whatever this person does or doesn’t do shouldn’t make me sick.
So, when this happens, I lie down and either meditate, or just repeat the mantra, “Calm calm calm” until I settle down.
I’ve done this with a bunch of triggers in my life. At first it was really tough, and took me a long time to change just one thought pattern. But I promise you, it’s become easier and easier with each thought pattern I change.
It’s kind of like a new chair. It may start out stiff and uncomfortable, but over time, it conforms to your body and it gets so comfortable… that one day you can’t remember when it wasn’t your favorite chair.
So, look at what you wrote. Think about WHO you no longer want to be, and who you want to be instead.
How do you NOT want to feel?
How are you going to act the next time you feel that way?
Create the images and the experiences ahead of the event.
Create a new future for yourself.
Is it worth the effort?
Most people only really look in the mirror to face who they are, and what they need to change, when they are faced with a crisis, trauma or hitting rock bottom. Usually it’s about loss.
But why wait until your miserable?
You don’t have to wait until you’re so uncomfortable you feel forced to move out of our current state.
Why not learn how to make changes for the most positive life while in a state of joy and inspiration, instead of when trauma hits— when it will be twice as hard?
Bottom line: Every experience you live is not just related to, but CREATED by your state of mind.
And, it is never too late to change the negative thoughts and feelings that don’t lead to you to your happiest life.
The power is not in your hands— it’s in your mind.
Give the daily practice that worked for me a try this week, and let me know how it goes for YOU in the comments below!
All the best,
PS: If you really want to see results, be sure to feed your brain the exact nutrients it needs for you to think and feel your best— with the least struggle. Even the best diets today still can’t really provide all your brain needs to really function at its peak, which is why why I created Simple Smart Science’s MindBoost Day and MindBoost Night.
If you’re ready for CHANGE, try it for yourself – it really DOES make a difference!
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Since Taking Mind Day and Night has given me more confidence and carmer self thank you love your e-mails full of health.
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Wonderful Alison, wonderful.
Improved confidence. That is terrific. That reflects in every area of your life. Thank you for sharing.