From childhood and throughout adulthood our thoughts, behaviours, beliefs and values are shaped, they sit in our subconscious mind. These brain programs are the foundation to everything we do, how we think, what we say, and how we act. For the most part this is helpful, however, our primitive brain will continue to use information that is not reality, and no longer helpful. It will delete and distort information stored, and this functioning can leave us stuck in a rut, and heading for unhappiness, without even realising what’s happened.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
The good news is you can retrain your brains programming, even deep set programs can be changed, this is specifically known as brain plasticity, a scientifically proven function that I’ve mentioned in previous blogs. In the interest of gentle self research, I have observed my own behaviours, words that I use, and patterns of thinking, and decided to change them. I can do this mindfully now because I’m a trained coach in NLP (neuro linguistic programming), however, I learnt the skill at a young age and even before I knew anything about NLP. I’m going to share in this blog some techniques you can try for yourself, first though, a little bit more about my own journey into re programming my brain, in the quest for peace, balance, and a happier disposition.
I was always a worrier as a child. I was painfully shy and situations involving meeting new people, or being put into new groups, was excruciatingly anxiety provoking. As I approached any new or uncomfortable situation, my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest, oh and if only the floor would open and swallow me, how grateful I would be. The intensity of shyness and related anxiety went on until I was about 13 years old, then I started drama at school, and something shifted. In becoming someone else I was free from my inflictions, it was the first time I consciously reflected “if I can do that in drama, I can do it again, until it’s my reality”. That, right there is one dimension of our programming – behaviour. As the years went on I also learnt that the words I used could make me feel (and sound) more confident. I sought those words out, I observed other people who were confident, I watched their behaviour and listened to their words and the delivery of such. I consciously copied until those words, that posture, the ‘belief’, that I was that confident person was my own. It worked. It didn’t mean I was never shy or anxious again, but it did mean it had lessened dramatically, and I was in control. That freedom from my brain, was enlightening. Today, if you asked those around me, they would most likely describe me as outgoing and confident, and would find it hard to believe that I used to be so shy and anxious.
This isn’t the only area I’ve used NLP in for myself, I’ve also used it to conquer my fear of heights. I mean I couldn’t even climb a ladder without feeling sick and light headed. My mum took me up Blackpool tower when I was little and I literally turned a pale shade of green. I can’t quite remember when or why I decided I’d had enough of being fearful of heights but my response to cracking it was to calm my conscious brain and my subconscious fears. Your conscious brain is relatively easy to distract, and the key is not to let any subconscious reactions set in, tell yourself you can, don’t procrastinate, and get on with it. Believe you can. To date, I’ve gone up in a hot air balloon, abseiled twice, bungee jumped, and paraglided. The latter was so awesome I could have stayed up there all day. These days I don’t even think twice about going up those step ladders 🙂
Other areas I’ve set about reprogramming include attitude to food and relationships, though this final share from me is around the power of positivity. This really helps to ensure that you don’t stay stuck in a negative mind set or low mood. Always, always, look for the positives, the beauty, the kindness, the compassion. Follow the good energy. That doesn’t mean you have to be happy-smiley all of the time, or that you don’t observe things that make you sad, frustrated or even angry, rather it’s about how you internalise them, and ultimately move on without holding onto them. How many times have you heard someone say things like, “my day started badly so that’s how it’ll be all day”, or “it always happens to me”, or one of a hundred other phrases that keep reinforcing the negative thought patterns. To re programme then, we need to know what we want instead, be mindful of ourselves, be consistent and persistent in our quest, and believe we can.
Techniques to try
Stop – acknowledge – reframe
This exercise is about becoming conscious of your negative talk and reframing it so you can reprogramme your brain.
Initial thought: “That’s the second thing that’s gone wrong this morning, it’s going to be one of those days”
Outcome: every time something happens that’s not perfect, you reinforce “I knew my day was going to be bad”, and the programme strengthens.
You start seeing all the faults of the day, because you are now focused on them.
Your day is miserable.
A better way:
STOP – Every time you catch yourself uttering those negative words, hit the pause button.
ACKNOWLEDGE – Recognise mindfully that your brain has taken you down that familiar path, and challenge it. Ask yourself: ‘is this true?’. Remind yourself: ‘The rest of my day is not laid out because of what’s happened now’. Get ready to reframe: ‘what other ways could I look at this?’
REFRAME – Now choose to change how you see the situation, and what you say about it, so that it is positively biased. Say something like “These things happen. What a lovely day outside, I’m looking forward to walking out at lunch time”
If there’s an occasion when you can’t manage that, say to yourself, “the situation may not be as I believe it to be, so I’m going to move on now”.
Initially you might only recognise negative self talk after the event, it might be hours later, that’s okay. As soon as you recognise it, choose to reframe it. After a relatively short time you’ll start to catch yourself as soon as you say something, then before you say it, and eventually you’ll notice that you see the world in a different, brighter, light. You’ll be using words like ‘can’t and ‘don’t much less when referring to yourself or events. One day you’ll notice that you feel altogether much more content and happy. Bingo!
The fast track way to having a different trait or behaviour is to find someone who you admire, someone who has that behaviour or trait you’re aiming toward, and observe them closely. Watch their body language, listen to the words they speak, and generally absorb their persona. If this seems a bit weird, remember, everything you are today is what you’ve observed and what you’ve learnt from others, you’re simply making a choice to develop yourself.
Say it and believe it
If you want a different attitude toward something, choose what that attitude is and affirm it. For example, if you know you’re eating too much at a sitting but you’re finding it difficult to stop eating too much, try this:
As you’re preparing your meal: Say to yourself (or anyone else who’s around), “I’m going to have a smaller portion, I get too full if I eat a large amount in one sitting”.
When you’re eating: Eat mindfully, so your brain has time to acknowledge you are in the act of eating. Be mindful of how your stomach feels, say to yourself “I can feel myself filling up”.
At the point of finishing: Say out loud “that was really nice, I’m full now”
Watch out! Don’t silently disagree with yourself at this point as you’ll undo your good re programming work. If you think you’re hungry, but you know you’ve eaten enough, have a drink of water and say to yourself “I’m thirsty after my meal, I’m full now”
The above is just an example, find your own words that work for you. You can use this exercise for anything, how you react, how you feel about something or someone, how you see yourself. Adjust it to the situation you want to use it for.
You can tap on your chin (the meridian point for self suggestion), whilst you’re saying your phrases.
You can mindfully meditate on the behaviour, attribute, trait (or whatever it is you’re aiming for), that you want. Do this regularly, daily is good as the re programming needs to be regularly affirmed until it becomes the new programme.
Now I’m not saying I can magically do this for everything, sometimes we can’t get out of our own way and we need someone else to dig deep in our subconscious. There are places in your mind that you just can’t access on your own. Over the years I’ve had my own coach, I’ve done hypnotherapy, and tapping (EFT), and I’m always amazed at the results. If you would like to know more about the blended psychotherapy and coaching sets that support mind set change, visit my site page on Talking Therapy, Psychotherapy & Coaching
Good luck. If you try any of these I’d love to hear how you got on, or you might have your own re programming techniques that you’d like to share.
“The mind is the source of all suffering, and it is also the source of all happiness.”
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