It’s a common belief that our brains are the sole creators of our thoughts, which we then become conscious of and act upon. However, recent research on neuroplasticity has revealed a far more fascinating reality – not only do our brains generate thoughts, but our thoughts also play a role in shaping our brains. The previously held notion that our brains were akin to computer hardware, and our thoughts to output, no longer holds true. The lines between them are much more blurred than we initially thought.
Indeed, our brains create thoughts that govern our body systems, but it doesn’t end there. The thoughts and emotions we consciously focus on can also alter the structure and function of our brains. This relationship is cyclical, not linear – more like an ongoing dialogue than a one-way street.
This discovery aligns with what we know about psychoneuroimmunology – the study of how our thoughts influence our body’s cellular functions. The old mechanical model of disease saw our bodies as machines, similar to cars, with diseases as the result of breakdowns. Now, we understand that our bodies are far more complex. In fact, how we utilize our bodies can impact their overall functioning. Imagine complimenting your car every morning and witnessing it perform better and suffer fewer breakdowns as a result!
So, how can you harness this knowledge to improve your health? There are two main strategies to consider:
- Monitor the thoughts and emotions you’re feeding your brain. Be mindful of the content you consume, from the media you watch to the people you interact with. Consistently exposing your brain to fear, anxiety, anger, or sadness may rewire it to be more prone to those feelings. As Louise Hay once replied when someone at one of her talks suggested killing two birds with one stone, “Why would I want to kill two birds? That sounds terrible!” Be conscious that the information, emotions, and thoughts in your environment can alter your brain, influencing the thoughts and emotions that emerge.
- Mess with your brain to alter the hardware in a positive way. Our brains struggle to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Research on mental practice has shown that when we vividly imagine scenarios, our brains process them as if they’re genuinely occurring. Why not use this to your advantage? Spend time each day visualizing situations that evoke happiness, laughter, connection, and gratitude. Committing to this practice for six to twelve months can reshape your brain, leading it to generate more positive thoughts and notice experiences that align with these emotions.
Now that you’re aware of the two-way street between your brain and thoughts, how will you choose to positively reshape your brain today? Embrace this newfound understanding, and embark on a journey towards a healthier, more fulfilling life, guided by the power of your thoughts.