The key function of our brain is to keep us alive. Even in sleep our hearts beat, we digest, our lungs fill. That mass of neurons firing away enables us to think, experience emotions, act, move, enjoy our senses, communicate and make decisions. Using past experiences for guidance, our brain also propels us to take steps to protect ourselves to ensure our survival.
Have you ever noticed that when you think about something, you notice it everywhere? When you contemplate getting pregnant, all you see are babies and prams. Or if you consider buying a red car, there are suddenly red cars everywhere. We also notice a surplus of evidence to justify a state of mind: if you’re feeling unsafe and anxious about the world, the daily news is scary and full of proof that the world is dangerous.
This is known as a 'confirmation bias', which means we look for and interpret information to confirm our beliefs, regardless of whether they are healthy or destructive, and without conscious thought. We create the world we live in – what goes on in our brains determines how we feel, what we see, and ultimately the decisions we make each day.
Scientists now know that our brains don’t, as once assumed, work by stimulus and response, and in fact are always busy making predictions about what might happen next based on our memory, situation and state of our body. Without our awareness, our brain launches our next actions and creates what we see, hear and feel. Ever had the experience of being sure you heard something that wasn’t actually said? It’s fascinating information and if you'd like to know more, check out neuroscientist and psychologist Dr Lisa Feldman Barrett. She’s got a brilliant TED talk (18:20) about the brain and our experience of emotions, as well as several books and hundreds of articles on the topic.
We know that the past 15 months have been really tough for many people. In the middle of a global pandemic all the other life events such as divorce, health crisis, heartbreak and career exhaustion have been happening too. Although it sometimes feels like we're at the mercy of these random thoughts, emotional surges and habitual behaviours – be reassured that there are ways to shift out of unconscious predictions and habits if you don’t like how life is feeling at the moment. Here are three things you can do to reframe what your brain is looking for:
- Make a list of the 5–10 repeated daily thoughts you have that you know don’t serve you – Then beside each of these thoughts write the reframed positive thought you’d like to replace it with. For example, the negative thought, ‘I really hate my job,’ would be reframed to: ‘I wonder what transfer skills I have that could help me move to a new career path.’ This is not a light and fluffy task. We've our coaching clients do this activity, and it works. We promise. We have to help our brains create new pathways and thoughts that allow us to see possibilities.
- Identify and have new experiences – When we're in different environments, meet new people, have fresh conversations or try different foods, for example, our brain and bodies respond. Neural pathways in our brain get reorganised or new ones built. Neuroplasticity refers to this ability of the brain to change. New positive experiences increase optimism – new uncomfortable experiences grow our resilience.
- Do a seven-day negative detox – Give yourself a break. Stay off social media and the news. Stay away from energy vampires and people who drag you down. Read books, watch ridiculously happy or funny
movies, walk in nature, get some sleep. There's lots of information to verify the positive impact these activities have on our brains, stress levels, happiness, fatigue, attention span and creativity.
Here at The Coach Place we want everyone to expand their potential. We know that wishing discomfort away won’t work, but we do know that we can increase our resilience, and that making small shifts in our perceptions can have a profound difference on our wellbeing. Reframing is a powerful tool. Let us know how it works for you.
– The Coach Place Global
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