Want to stop letting your unruly mind run your life? I’m talking about those voices that fill your brain all day, running a narrative that you don’t feel in control over. But guess what? You DO have control over the mysteries of your mind.
The answer is in your neuroplasticity – your mind’s ability to change the brain. That means you are actively sculpting your brain to respond, daily, just by living your life. Mostly, neuroplastic change happens without us knowing because of thought patterns and habitual behaviors we have as we live our lives on autopilot.
When you let your thoughts run wild, you are letting your brain bully you & run the show. It can feel like you have no control over your own mind or life. Changing your thought patterns means you need to examine your own brain. Lucky for you, there are scientifically proven steps you can take to steer your mind & life to permanently change your mind along the way.
I’m going to teach you a method of changing your brain created by research psychiatrist, Jeffrey Schwartz. Jeff joined his interest in Buddhist philosophy with his neuroanatomy research & came up with a Four Step method used to successfully change the behavior of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Four Step program has become an established treatment for OCD & has been proven to physically change brains in studies using brain scans.
The four steps are a formula for applied mindfulness. When you follow them, you learn to focus your attention & modify your thinking in ways that support & empower you. If you continue to repeat the four steps and use them as often as you can, this process changes your brain physically & operationally through neuroplasticity. Here are the Four Steps to use to make that happen:
The first step is awareness – notice and identify which thoughts are deceiving brain messages & what thoughts give you uncomfortable feelings. Now consciously put a label on your experience as it is happening. Practice in your head: “I’m feeling nervous right now because I’m thinking about all of the things that could go wrong.” “I’m feeling sad because I believe I’m not worthy of love.” What are yours?
Now refuse to be tricked by your own thoughts. Through this process of awareness, you train yourself to recognize & understand what is real and what isn’t – step back and say, “This thought is really just my brain sending me a false message.” It’s actually quite hard to relabel your thoughts – you are so used to the embedded thought patterns, the force you need to focus on something else is real. Keep trying!
Why do these thoughts keep coming back? Your brain is misfiring, and the second step is to reattribute that mental noise & the false messages you are receiving. Now change how important those brain messages are to you. The way to do that is to realize that they’re just products of your brain that you don’t have to believe. If you understand why you’re getting those old thoughts, eventually you’ll be able to say, “Oh, that’s just a brain glitch.”
Try it out. If you’re having the feeling that something is wrong, first acknowledge the feeling & ask yourself “Is something really wrong or is it just my brain?” Something might really be wrong, but don’t automatically jump to that conclusion just because of the feeling.
This is where the real behavior change happens – you are going to try and do a new behavior instead of the one you have embedded. Now that you have recognized the problem for what it is & why it’s occurring, you now have to replace the old behavior with something new. You’ve already cleared your cognitive field in the first two steps. Next, you focus your mind on the direction you want to go and consciously do something that is constructive instead. Your brain chemistry will change as a result of this new pattern & mindset. By refusing to be misled by the old messages, you begin to understand they aren’t what they tell you they are. Your mind is now the one in charge of your brain. Go, you!
This step can be simple. It’s as easy as guiding your thoughts back to the present moment, or doing something that is enjoyable to you — the important part is to do it even while the negative brain messages are still bothering you. It’s through this refocusing of attention that your brain gets rewired.
When you practice the first three steps, the fourth comes almost automatically as a result of your new thinking patterns. When you regularly replace your old behavior with a new one, your brain begins to see the old pattern for what it is – a distraction. You begin to see these feelings, urges, and impulses for what they are: thoughts caused by deceptive brain messages that don’t benefit you anymore. You & your brain will devalue them as being completely worthless. Over time, the old thoughts begin to fade, your brain works better, and the automatic thoughts have been replaced with something healthier.
Just because you have had thoughts and urges or behaved in certain ways in the past — for most of your life even — doesn’t mean that you have to always be that way. You have the power to change your life and your brain. It’s time to learn how to focus your attention on positive, beneficial things that empower you.
When you hire a coach, you can work on these brain patterns together & actually rewire your thoughts to support new patterns that serve you better. One of the common side effects of this cognitive behavioural work is feeling happier because you have control over your response to your emotions. When you work on this technique, either with or without a coach, you will be changing your brain’s chemistry forever.
You can use these four steps to change any area of your life, whether it’s your career, your relationships or your business. You CAN improve your ability to get out of those thinking traps or “black holes”. Override your defaults and get on a track that serves you!
To read more about neuroplasticity and changing your brain through neuroscience, start here:
“You fill a bucket drop by drop. You clear your mind thought by thought. You heal yourself moment by moment. Today I make one drop, clear one thought, and get present to one moment. And then I do it again.”
Lisa Wimberger, New Beliefs, New Brain: Free Yourself From Stress And Fear