Changing your behavior

You may have noticed that changing your behavior can be really challenging. Often, people who come to me for weight loss tell me about all the times they have tried to create healthy lifestyle changes and failed. They were trying to use will power to overcome the hardwired habituated programs of the unconscious mind.

Last Sunday, in Change Your Brain I wrote about behavior and neuroplasticity. To recap, when you keep doing the same behaviors you get the same results. And, when you keep thinking the same old thoughts and feeling the same old emotions, you keep doing the same old behaviors. When you change your behavior you change your brain.

Unhealthy emotional behavior

There comes a point when you have repeated an unhealthy emotional behavior pattern often enough that you no longer have to focus your attention on it. You have stabilized the neural circuitry of that learning so that it has become habit – it has become hardwired. As a side note, creating habits of behavior through this conditioning is your brain’s way of being efficient. Without it, you’d have to learn how to brush your teeth and tie your shoes every day.

If you grew up thinking that you are not good enough or that you aren’t important then these thoughts become hardwired. They become habit. You view the world through the glasses of “not good enough” or “not important.” And still today, your habit is that when your partner simply asks you a question, you go to that place of anger, hurt, fear or sadness that you associated with that old thought.

The good news is that you can un-condition the unhealthy emotional behavior. The Greatest Expression of You Process is all about conditioning healthy emotional behavior so that you can achieve the healthy behaviors that you want.

Experience alters the brain

Neuroscience has shown that experience alters the brain. When you have new experiences, you create new neuropathways. If we keep repeating old experiences, nothing changes. You do get good at what you practice. We now know that you aren’t at the mercy of genetically-predetermined brain activity. You really do play an active role in influencing brain function by deciding where to focus your attention. You can reorganize your brain circuitry by paying attention.

In an article titled, A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind, Harvard researcher Matthew A. Killingsworth tells us that 50% of the time you are not paying attention to what you are doing. Your mind is off somewhere else. When you are not paying attention, you are not happy. It’s become habit, to not pay attention.

Focusing your attention on any experience stimulates neurons in the brain to fire which affect the nerves in the rest of the body. The structure of your brain is constantly changing in response to a wide range of experiential factors. Your brain will change with new experiences. With new experiences, new behaviors you can make it your habit to pay attention.

Think of it this way: If you exercise your muscles, they will grow stronger with time. The neural networks you exercise become stronger. With repetition new thought patterns and mental habits get stronger and become automatic. So the new experience of paying attention can become habit and alter your brain.

Change your brain

The most powerful way to change your behavior is to change your brain. The goal is to change your mental behavior, your mental habit.

In the video, Why A Neuroscientist Would Study Meditation, Dr. Willoughby Britton demonstrates a powerful exercise. She asked the audience to close their eyes and then to think about something they don’t like about themselves. She gave them about 3 seconds and had them open their eyes. So I ask that you do that right now. Close your eyes for no more than 3 to 5 seconds. Bring to mind something you don’t like about yourself and then open your eyes.

What did you bring to mind? Notice how quickly you did that. As Dr. Britton says, you are an Olympic athlete at self-criticism! You’ve practiced it over and over and that neural network is strong. Do you really want to be good at self-criticism?

How many other unhealthy mental behaviors have you made a habit? These unhealthy and unintentional neural networks have become automatic and effortless superhighways of habits that hold you back in your life.

You can change your brain by cultivating and training Being Your Best-Self. You can unwire the old neurons of unhealthy emotional behavior and become the person you want to be. Happiness is about the mental habits you practice moment to moment.

Being your best self

My Greatest Expression of You process cultivating through practice and training being your best-self. If you have written two or three sentences that describe being your best-self yet, I urge you to do it now. Begin by reading my post, Becoming the Greatest Expression of You.

Next, write 2 or 3 sentences that describe being the Greatest Expression of You. Meditate on being your best-self and memorize being joyful. Then mentally rehearse joyfully being your best-self throughout the day as you go about your day. Give thanks for being the Greatest Expression of You.

You really can stop the old unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behaviors with practice and training. Practice being your best-self.

 

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