“From the brain and brain alone arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains and griefs.”

 – Hippocrates

Last Wednesday I blogged about some cognitive distortions, or lies that we tell ourselves, that when told repeatedly, become a pattern that eventually forms a belief. What we think about and dwell on, really DOES affect our beliefs! I also mentioned that I would discuss this week a little more in depth the research and studying I have been doing on the brain and how to rewire our brains from negative beliefs to become happier overall!

Breakthroughs In Modern Science

“Until recently, scientists believed that the human brain and it’s structures were formed during gestation and infancy and remained pretty much unchanged through childhood. You had a given number of neurons in a specific brain structure and…once you were done with childhood development, you were set in a mold. Your connections were already made, and the learning period of your brain was now over. In the last decade, however, researchers have found significant evidence that this is not so, and that something called neuroplasticity continues throughout our lives.” – Teresa Aubele, PhD, Stan Wenck, EdD, and Susan Reynolds. (Train Your Brain to Get Happy).

Neuroscientists now believe that the brain has the ability to change, to be molded, to repair damaged regions, grow new neurons and and get rid of old ones, to rezone regions that performed one task and give them the ability to assume new tasks and change the circuitry that weaves neurons into networks that allow us to remember, feel, suffer, think, imagine, and dream. Basically, our brains can continue to learn and achieve throughout the duration of our lives.

The part of my research I found most interesting was the recognition that we can rewire our brains from depression, worry, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disease etc. to becoming happier. For instance, if you worry a lot, you are accessing certsin types of pathways due to habit. But habits can change! I guess old dogs can learn new tricks! You can learn to retrain your brain to quiet the nervous pathways and strengthen others so that you don’t automatically go down the worry path!

If your typical pattern to facing problems is to feel depressed, your brain will continue that habit. However, we can instruct our brain to come up with creative solutions to our problems, thereby opening new pathways for our brains to use instead. If you program your mind with images of you being happy, and visualize the desired images long enough, your brain will associate happiness with them as the brain is not completely reliable at distinguishing actual events from fantasy or perception.

“The more you ask your brain to think happy thoughts, the more your brain responds by forging new…neural circuitry to light up your happy board, and by weakening the neuronal pathways that drain your happy thoughts.” (Train Your Brain To Get Happy).

 “If you routinely dwell on your resentments, regrets, and other negative emotions, the neurons involved in that particular mental activity will fire busily at the same time and automatically start wiring together as well. This process will add one more bit of neural structure to feeling discontented, angry or sad. On the other hand, if you regularly focus on the good feelings around you and inside you, like kindness, compassion, empathy, and patience, then the neurons involved in those thoughts will wire together and take up more space, stitching together more hopefulness, confidence, and happiness into the fabric of your brain and yourself (and taking away space from the negative paths!).

Last week i talked about negative thinking. Here’s what happens when we get stuck in negative thought patterns. Negative thoughts literally can make our brains dysfunctional! Certain brain configurations cause people’s emotions to repeat themselves, without decreasing in intensity. If the thoughts and feelings involve sadness or despair, it can lead to depression. Our brains were not meant to function for prolonged periods of time on negative thinking. Getting stuck in negative thought patterns makes it harder for a person to rebound from negative thoughts and emotions which makes it difficult to control these responses.

It is important to think about what we are thinking about! As I mentioned last Wednesday, the bible was onto something when it says of our thought life that

“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Philippians 4:7-9

The authors of the book “Train your brain to get happy” most certainly agree that “on the flip side, being focused on positive, happy, hopeful, optimistic, joyful thoughts produces chemicals that create a sense of well-being, which helps your brain function at peak capacity.”

“Negative thinking slows down brain coordination, making it difficult to process thoughts and find solutions. Feeling frightened, which often happens when focused on negative outcomes, has been shown to decrease activity in the cerebellum, which slows the brain’s ability to process new information, and the left temporal lobe, which affects mood, memory, and impulse control.” (Train Your brain to get happy).

I can certainly identify with this. Whenever I am down in the dumps, it is more difficult to think of anything positive. In such times, when I try a “gratitude exercise” of trying to find 5 things I am grateful for that day, I struggle to come up with even one or two. But on a good day, I can think of so many things to be grateful for! As Napolean Hill said:

“As a man thinketh, so is he.”

Our minds have the ability to control what type of thinking we allow to go on. So go ahead… Get happy! Think some happy thoughts today! Dwell on the good things in life, even if it is a simple pleasure, like your favorite dessert, or a day at the beach, or your last vacation… Ahhh!!! Summer! Sleeping in, going out for breakfast with a good friend, reading a good book, watching a great movie, doing something kind for someone else, sitting by a fireplace in the winter, campfires in the summer, good uplifting music….

Think your way to happiness, feel your way to happiness, sleep well, eat well… Things will start to look up!

Some quick tips on good brain foods before I sign off for today… Whole grains, bananas, tuna, beans, barley, sweet potatoes, nutrient rich fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts. Dark green vegetables and dark orange vegetables like carrots and yams are excellent choices. Red peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, even red wine are powerful antioxidants!

Cancer preventing veggies: Bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, rutabagas, turnips, and watercress.

Brain superfoods: Salmon, blueberries, apples, nuts, quinoa, oats, soy, chocolate!!!!

On that note… I’m getting hungry! Gonna go raid the fridge and see what I can eat to get my brain happier!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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