The human brain, with its 100 billion neurons, is truly a wondrous and impressive organ. Researchers in Japan and Germany found that it took 40 minutes using the combined muscle of 82,944 processors and the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world to mimic just one second of your brain’s processing ability.
Yup, the brain is truly an amazing organ.
Why is this important and what does it have to do with emotional struggles such as anxiety or depression? After all, being saddled with chronic doubts, fears, or negative thinking isn’t a brain problem, it’s a mind problem.
Right? Well, yes and no.
Most people would agree that the neurotic, unhealthy thinking that fuels our emotional struggle occurs in this thing we call our “mind.” But what exactly is a mind?
We tend to think about the mind as we do the soul, as something ethereal, having no substance itself. And like most people, you probably think that the mind and brain are two separate entities rather than being interdependently related.
In 2000, neuropsychiatrist Eric Kanel won the Nobel Prize for discovering that learning quite literally changes the brain’s structure. Think about that for a moment. Your thoughts right now are actually changing your brain! If we think of the brain as a computer, then we are constantly programming and reprogramming our neuro-circuitry — literally!
Unfortunately, your brain isn’t selective — it’s programmed by everything you feed it. If you feed your brain a steady diet of worry, doubt, fear, or negativity, it will develop what we might call a neurotic habit-loop, which then turns into emotional struggle.
And, as with most habits, a neurotic habit-loop is a reflexive pattern requiring little or no conscious awareness on your part to do its mischief. You become its victim.
If we treat anxiety or depression as habits of insecurity that have become programmed in your brain, then it’s time to understand that the brain isn’t a static organ; in fact, it’s quite malleable. Which is why habits, all habits, can be broken — even lifelong ones.
Fact is, you can begin to neutralize any neurotic habit-loops that contribute to your suffering, while initiating a new program based on facts — not the faulty neurotic programming of the past.
In order to liberate yourself from emotional struggle, to retrain your brain and develop a healthier, liberated habit-loop, you must first learn to stop reinforcing your habit of insecurity.
You do this one thought at a time, becoming an active participant in your thinking process, rather than passively allowing yourself to be victimized by the same-old, same-old neurotic loop. It all starts with the realization that, when it comes to insecurity-driven thinking, you have a choice!
Okay, I can hear you now, “These thoughts just pop into my head, uninvited!” True, you may not be able to stop a destructive thought from popping into your head, but you sure as heck can stop the next thought and the next, and so on.
Bottom line: thoughts do not have a life of their own. They need you to keep them alive.
Each time you dig your heels in and actively stop your destructive thinking, you are quite literally re-programming your brain. Thoughts really do matter. If you want to encourage your brain training, you need to become more aware of insecurity-driven thinking (doubts, fears, negatives) while stopping the runaway train of neurotic habit-loops. How? Any way you can. Here are a few tips:
- Actively practice ignoring these thoughts.
- Do something to distract yourself, such as listening to music, checking out YouTube, etc.
- Do something physical. Exercise, clean a closet, wash the car, etc.
- Make a clear decision not to allow these thoughts to proliferate.
- Offer yourself a positive affirmation as a rebuttal, one that begins to re-train your brain and create a new habit-loop.
Remember, your brain does what you tell it to do. If you struggle and do nothing — or worse, embrace neurotic thinking — your brain will oblige you with emotional struggle. But if you elect to do something, your reshaped brain will reward you with the life that you want and the life you deserve.
Dr. Joe Luciani has been a practicing clinical psychologist for more than 35 years. He’s the internationally bestselling author of the Self-Coaching series of books, now published in ten languages, which deal with anxiety, depression, and relationships. His latest book, “Thin From Within,” is a self-coaching, mind-over-mouth approach to achieving lifelong weight mastery. He appears frequently on national TV, radio, and the internet, and has also been featured in numerous national magazines and newspapers. Visit self-coaching.net for more information.
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