In the last blog we talked about neural pathways and how we have well- conditioned these pathways to help us develop habits that are important to us. Most likely we have held on to these pathways because of three very basic drives for survival: 1. We want to be in control of our own individual destiny. 2. People crave stability and predictability. 3. People try to avoid pain and hold tight to things that are pleasurable. (Duke Integrative Medicine)
We have set up past neural pathways, based off of these drives, and the problem becomes our thoughts, bodies and environments are constantly changing but we keep the old pathways. What may have been true in the past, no longer serves us in the present moment. With this in mind, change can be very scary. It is different from what is already known. So now we have hard-wired habits that no longer serve us well and need to be changed. Are we stuck with them? Neuroscience says no! It we train our brain to create new neural pathways and keep the action going; the pathways grows stronger and stronger as the action is repeated and becomes the new normal. We have then graduated up to another level of thinking!
The fuel for this re-wiring is insight and attention and the building blocks are action and repetition. When we first rewire the brain’s neural pathways the connection is weak, but as we focus on it and repeat it, the pathway becomes stronger. New neural pathways that wire together, fire together and wa lah we are creating a new habit that may serve us better. Also, if we do not run the old pathways they start to fade away. The beauty of neural pathways is by putting your insight and attention on better habits, the wiring to the bad habits become weaker. What does that say about our thinking? For sure, you gotta keep yourself focus on a new way of thinking.
On facebook, I have seen postings for 5 things you are grateful for everyday. Think about it. If you are putting your attention toward things you are thankful for every day, you are creating new neural pathways. Repeat it every day and it becomes stronger and stronger. Other pathways, that may not have served you so well (ex. my life sucks) become weaker and weaker. That old adage, you are what you think, becomes more and more real in this scenario.
I think that is why meditation becomes so important to us. We have time to observe our thoughts and become aware of what is going through our minds. We may decide we want to let some thoughts enter and exit without letting them grow stronger. These thoughts may have been on auto-pilot for so long we do not even know they are around until we put our insight and focus on them. Here is where meditation can help. However, meditation is like building a muscle. You do not go into a gym and work out for hours in the beginning (if ever). Try two minutes and work up from there. You would not try a marathon unless you had trained for it. Start simple.