In 2020, I fed my brain crap. I did. As I shared in my last blog post, I watched more news during 2020 than I did in my entire life. That’s a lot of frickin’ news. So, it’s no great surprise that the negativity of the news impacted not just what I focused on, but how I felt, what I said, and ultimately what I did or didn’t do.
Thinking about my brain’s diet over the last year I’m reminded of a really cool water experiment conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto. (To read more about his experiment, click here)
In short, Dr. Emoto placed water in vials, and on the outside of the vials he wrote words like, “I hate you”, “fear”, “I love you” and “peace”. He then froze the water. What happened next was fascinating!
The vials with the negative words formed grey, misshaped clumps. And the vials with the positive words formed beautifully shaped ice crystals, similar to snowflakes.
Since we’re made up of about 60% water, can you imagine the impact that words can have on our brains and mindset?
Here’s the thing, our brains don’t know what’s real versus what’s not. Our brains rely on us for the truth. So, if we’re on a diet of negative words; complaining, gossip, hurtful comments from others, and/or negative news, our brain is going to respond in kind. Just like mine did this last year.
A CHANGE IN PERCEPTION
Negative words don’t just impact how we feel, but they impact how we see the world around us, especially ourselves.
In their book “Words Can Change Your Brain” Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman wrote,
“By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain. Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with. A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.”
As I read that paragraph it brought to mind the mirror example, which goes like this…
Julie’s alarm clock goes off. She’s feeling good after having a great night’s sleep. She mediates, takes a nice long shower, where she’s having all sorts of positive thoughts about the day ahead. After her shower, she goes into her closet to pull out her favorite outfit. She puts it on, takes a look in the mirror, and says to herself, “Julie, you’re looking good!! It’s going to be a great day!”
Fast forward to the next week. Julie’s alarm clock doesn’t go off and she oversleeps. She oversleeps because she got to bed later than usual after having a fight with her best friend. She jumps out of bed like her hair’s on fire. No time to meditate. On her way to the shower, she steps on the dog’s toy that she doesn’t see because she’s too busy ruminating over last night’s argument. She rushes her shower, goes into her closet, pulls out her favorite outfit. She puts it on and stands in front of the mirror. Instead of saying, “Julie, you’re looking good!!” out of her mouth comes, “Julie, you look like an Oompah Loompa. WTH!??!!”
Nothing has changed about Julie’s physical presence or her favorite outfit. What has changed, however, is Julie’s mindset and perception.
What we feed our brains in terms of thoughts and information plays a huge role in our mindset and ultimately our perceptions. But all is not lost…we have the power and the choice to change our mindset and the way our brains perceive our world and ourselves.
CHANGING THE BRAIN'S DIET
Want to hear something really cool? We can rewire our brains by feeding them the good stuff! So, I’d like to offer a few mindset hacks to help with your brain’s diet. VERY IMPORTANT: If any of these hacks (as they are) don’t jive with you, please don’t use them. Trying to make something work that doesn’t jive is just a recipe for frustration – which is a great breeding ground for negativity. Instead, please make it a point to find a few hacks that jive, or feel free to tweak these until they do.
1. The most powerful words come after “I am”. Your brain takes that as a cue to find all sorts of evidence to prove your “I am” statement correct. So, instead of saying things like, “I am tired.” “I am sad.” Try saying things like, “I feel tired” or “I feel sad”. Just that tiny little shift in wording changes the dynamics of what you believe and what you feel.
2. When you catch yourself saying something negative, simply stop. Stop mid-thought or mid-sentence. As you create that habit of stopping, you’re retraining your brain that it’s not cool to perpetuate a negative dialog.
3. Cut down or cut out the activities that make you feel negative. For example, social media or the news. Limiting or eliminating exposure to negative stimuli will protect not just your brain but your emotional well-being…not to mention your perception.
4. Recharge your battery. When you’re fried and crispy you’re way more susceptible to negative thoughts and commentary. Deep breathing is a great way to recharge and is something that can be done anywhere, and at any time.
5. Be careful not to engage in others’ negative commentary. Excuse yourself from the conversation. If you can’t, just listen without adding more negativity to the conversation.
What are some of the good things you feed your brain? I’d love to hear.
Until next time, here’s to feeding our brains the good stuff and changing the way we look at ourselves and the world.