I would like to explain to you the impact your thoughts have on your life and your emotions. Maybe you already know this, so just bear with me if you do.
What many people out there do not know is how powerful your thoughts are. It comes down to this, every emotion you experience has an underlying thought that fuels it. If you can identify the underlying thought, you can control the emotion. Trust me on this.
What exactly is a thought? Technically? It is an electrical impulse in your brain cells, or nerves if you will, created by a chemical reaction. The chemicals that causes this impulse is called neurotransmitters. When this impulse occurs, it creates another chemical reaction – an emotion! We already know that emotions are chemical reactions in the brain. Now we know where this chemical reaction comes from – from the thought that happened.
The size of a brain cell varies from 0.004 mm to 0.1 mm in diameter. The nerve impulse or signal travels at about 320 km/h. There are roughly 100 billion cells or neurons in the brain. Each neuron is typically connected to 1000 other neurons. In other words, each cell has 1000 connections. Read more here and here.
When a new thought occurs, a new connection in your brain forms. This ability of forming new connections is referred to as brain plasticity. Now, how the connections in your brain work are as follows. Each time you have the same thought, the connection becomes stronger. And the stronger the connection becomes, the more neurotransmitters are involved in the thought. And the more neurotransmitters involved in the thought, the stronger the emotion associated with the thought. This, of course, is very simplistically explained.
Let me give you an analogy of how the new connection evolve. Imagine you walk through a field where no one ever comes. The first time you walk through the field you step on some twigs and grass etc. You leave some trace behind that you walked there. The next time you take the same route, you crunch some more grass and break some more twigs and plants. Now imagine how this route will look like if you walk the same way every day for a week. And for a month? Imagine you walk the same way for a year. How would the route look after a year? There would be a neat pathway, wouldn’t there? It works the same way in the brain, the more attention you give to something the stronger the connection in your brain gets. So much so that instead of one single minute connection there forms a nerve ‘highway’, if you will.
When we think the same thing over and over the emotions connected to it becomes stronger and stronger. This brings me to the point I’m trying to make. If you have the same negative thought over and over you will get stuck in a rut of negative emotions. You should therefore become very aware of what you are thinking. You must start to look at your thoughts in a critical way. By ‘critical’ I do not mean that you should criticize yourself every time you catch yourself having a negative thought. That will just contribute to the negative spiral. You should be critically aware of your thoughts.
What should you do if you have a negative thought? Be gentle with yourself and re-frame it in a positive way. I know, I make it sound so easy and effortless. Unfortunately it isn’t. It takes concentration and hard work.
How does re-framing work? Say you get the thought “I am stupid”. Where did that thought come from? What thoughts are underlying this thought? Is it even true? What sparked this thought? Really go in there and explore the thought. Is there any evidence of the contrary? Start focusing your attention on this evidence. And think the opposite thought deliberately. I like to say the phrase “Cancel that thought” in my head or out loud when I encounter one of these unfounded negative thoughts. And, important, you need to really believe yourself when you think this positive thought. This may seem ridiculous or useless to you, but forcing your brain to think the new positive thought creates new neurological pathways.
What will happen to the path in the field we spoke about earlier when you stop walking there? It will slowly return to its original state, won’t it? The same thing happens in the brain. If you stop thinking a specific thought the connection becomes weaker and weaker. This is the wonder of brain plasticity or neuroplasticity! The weaker the connection gets, the less you will experience the emotions associated with that thought. Isn’t it amazing?!
So, in short. Pay attention to your thoughts. Really examine them. Find evidence of the contrary. Re-frame the negative thought. Pay attention to the new thought. Think that thought over and over. Start feeling more positive.
I would like you to take responsibility for your emotions by examining your thoughts. Don’t be a victim of your thoughts. You can control them. You are in charge!
Trust me on this. You will see the change after a while.