Rewire Your Brain
Stop Your Brain from Sabotaging Your New Year Resolution Success!
5 Steps to Rewire Your Brain
Are you launching into 2013 with a New Year Resolution? If so, you are not alone. The start of a new year is symbolic of new beginnings and so, not surprisingly, the tradition has a popular and long history dating back to ancient Babylonia and Rome. Even Medieval knights took the “peacock vow” at the beginning of each year to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry. And, whether your New Year Resolution is to lose weight, change careers, or take the peacock vow, one thing is for certain: your intention is to succeed.
Yet, no matter what your good intention most New Year Resolutions fail.
According to a University of Bristol Study, over 88% of resolutions do not succeed. So chances are this is not your first attempt. But, before you launch into a merciless and brutal internal assault of self-judgment, you can take comfort in one fact: these past failures are not your fault.
That is correct. Your previous failures are not your fault.
So who’s to blame?
SIGNS YOUR BRAIN IS SABOTAGING YOUR SUCCESS
There are many signs that indicate your brain is working against you and sabotaging your success – or in this case – the New Year Resolution. These signs can include one or more of the following:
- Feeling stuck
- Worry, fret or over-thinking decisions and circumstances even if they are out of your control
- Experience persistent, unfounded or irrational thoughts, fears, worries, anxiety, overwhelm or panic
- Revert to old, destructive patterns, habits or unhealthy behaviors
- Blame or chastise yourself for things that are not your fault
- Tell yourself you want to stop a specific action or habit but constantly find yourself repeating that behavior
WHY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FAIL: THE NATURE OF YOUR BRAIN
We think self-control and will power are the keys to success and the lack thereof is an issue of character.
This is not the case. The very nature of the brain and your ability to harness its’ power is what actually dictates the outcome of your New Year Resolution.
It seems counter-intuitive but when left unchecked your brain can and often will work against you. It has the best of intention but the results can be frustrating, even devastating on your life.
DECEPTIVE BRAIN MESSAGES
The brain does not incorporate nor represent your true self. It merely generates the passive side of experience, reacting in automatic, habitual ways. Quite simply, it receives information from our environment and/or your actions and generates a message in response. This message can include strong thoughts, cravings, desires and urges that compel you to respond.
Unfortunately, these messages from our brain are often deceptive. This is because the brain does not distinguish whether the action that you are taking is beneficial or harmful to you. The brain works in survival-of-the-fittest mode with the goal of ensuring your safety or relief in the moment, no matter what the future cost. Often, the result is that you react, perpetuating a habitual and/or harmful action. Unchecked this can become a vicious and destructive cycle
Example: The Vicious Cycle – Angie’s Story
- External Trigger – Angie’s brain receives information from her environment, an image in a marketing advertisement.
- External Message – Beautiful women are thin, toned, and successful.
- Deceptive Brain Message – “I am not good enough. I never succeed. I really want to eat,” are just some possible negative messages that would trigger various areas of the brain.
- Uncomfortable Feelings or Thoughts – “My stomach hurts.” Angie could also feel hungry or have an intense craving.
- Habitual Response – Angie might eat something even though she is trying to shed weight or she might purge.
- Unhealthy Circuit Strengthened – Angie’s distress is now diminished, however the brain circuitry is once again reinforced setting Angie up for another attack if she is triggered again. Also, if the choice was negative, and Angie is upset which triggers yet another negative self-judgment and the pattern will repeat itself automatically…a vicious cycle.
BREAK THE CYCLE
It is impossible to stop the onslaught of brain messages and the physical or emotional sensations that they elicit. You cannot erase your thoughts and urges. However, you are responsible for what you do with these thoughts, desires, impulses, urges and sensations once they arise.
You should not try to stop them. Instead, you should learn to understand them and work around them. The key to accomplishing this and breaking the destructive cycle of deceptive brain messages is the mind-brain equation.
HARNESS YOUR BRAIN: THE MIND-BRAIN EQUATION
The key to harnessing your brain is the mind-brain equation. You can enlist both your mind and brain to work as a team and use your mind to harness the power of your brain. Neither is better than the other but if you can use your mind to harness the power of your brain, you are much closer to achieving your goals.
While the brain is the passive side of experience, simply reacting to impulses, the mind is the active side. Your mind has the power to override almost any action potentially initiated by your brain’s deceptive messages and choose an appropriate, alternative and positive course of action. Your mind will assess the messages sent by the brain, analyze the options, consequences and weigh short-term actions against long-term goals.
So how can you actually accomplish this and achieve lasting, positive change?
ACHIEVE LASTING CHANGE: RECRUIT YOUR MIND TO REWIRE YOUR BRAIN
You can actually rewire your brain and achieve lasting, positive change by utilizing a few basic principles. They include awareness, the power of focus and concentrating on those things you have control over; mainly your actions.
To help you achieve your New Year Resolutions and other important goals in your life, we would like to offer you 5 simple steps. These 5 Steps are easy to apply and in fact, continual practice will help you to not only enlist your mind and brain to work as a team, harness your brain but also to rewire your brain for permanent and lasting change.
SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS: 5 STEPS TO REWIRE YOUR BRAIN
Step 1: Awareness
Be mindful of your brain. Be aware of the messages it is sending you, non-judgmentally:
- Use awareness to recognize the deceptive messages your brain is sending you
- Listen to your thoughts. Write down these thoughts and messages
- Recognize and identify these thoughts as deceptive brain messages and call them what they are: random, unconscious messages
Step 2: Perception
See the truth behind each experience, rationally. Reframe each deceptive brain message:
- Know and remind yourself: “It is not ME. It is just my brain. It can change.”
- Acknowledge why these thoughts, urges and impulses keep bothering you
- Look at the false brain message rationally, from a supportive perspective, see it as it truly is: your brain reacting automatically – habitually
- Find meaning in the face of adversity. Viktor Frankl stressed in Man’s Search for Meaning that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Step 3: Stop & Breathe
Stop the brain chatter by coming back into the moment. Stop responding automatically to the trigger or feeling and choose how you would like to respond, consciously:
- Refuse to act on the deceptive brain message
- Choose to be non-judgmental, put no energy toward the deceptive messages and let the sensations go
- Use four-square breathing and other meditation or mindfulness techniques to interrupt a reaction, manage your emotions and decrease the intensity of the sensations you experience as a result of the deceptive brain messages
Step 4: Focus
Recruit your mind to change and channel your brain messages by focusing your attention on a more rational, supportive choice, towards goals and activities that are important to you.
- Focusing your attention away from deceptive messages deflate their meaning
- Focusing your attention activates Hebb’s Law, which states that neurons that “fire together wire together.” The key is focused attention on new, healthier patterns or thoughts, which “locks” in the new thought, the new pattern.
- Focused attention on new ways of thinking also triggers the brain’s neuroplasticity, a natural mechanism to help us adapt and survive change. Self-directed, we can harness this natural, healing power to rewire the brain to work for your true self.
Step 5: Reaffirm & Repeat
Set a defined, realistic outcome or goal that supports your desired activity or mental outcome. Reaffirm success in every choice taken!
- 3-Foot Toss/Baby Steps: Don’t try to change your entire life in one resolution or achieve all your goals at one time. Select one goal and parse it into small achievable steps that you tackle one at a time.
- Keep it simple: Make your new year resolution simple and achievable
- Know that you can control your outcome.
- You will need commitment and perseverance to affect real meaningful change.
- Solicit support from trusted friends or family
Before you take your peacock vow or give up on your New Year Resolution, try a new approach for 2013. Use the brain’s biology, its neuroplastic qualities to create permanent change and rewire your brain through the power of focused attention. Focus on those things that give meaning in your life. Practice the 5 skills and drive your neuro-network beyond expectations.
Most importantly, do not judge or blame yourself for past misses (remember it is your brain’s fault, not yours). Take comfort from the fact you can enlist your mind and brain to work for you. And, as you are rewiring your brain, practice the art of gratitude. Focus on what you already have and what you are doing well. Self-acceptance and gratitude will go a long way to making you feel a whole lot richer in this moment.
Happy New Year!
“Rewire Your Brain,” was adapted from Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz’s You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life.