How many times do you beat yourself up for repeating the same limiting or self-sabotage patterns even though you “know better”? Part of the problem is that knowing better often has little power to create real and lasting brain change. Science supports the idea that our unconscious and subconscious processes account for far more of our behavior drivers than conscious thought processes. So if our behaviors and patterns are dictated more from subconscious patterns than conscious ones, it really does little good to “know better.” Instead, for lasting brain change we have to “do better.”
According to Lisa Wimberger, founder of the Neurosculpting® Institute, self-directed neuroplasticity, and practices like Neurosculpting, are some of the keys to influencing our thought patterns, breaking old ones, and establishing new ones. The great news is we can use some simple practices to begin winning over the brain and body, priming it to be more predisposed to self-directed change.
Having a gratitude practice has been neurologically and biologically proven to have a profound effect on the body and mind. When the mind and body reach these states we feel less apprehensive about change and more open to new possibilities and uncertainty. UC Berkeley reports that practicing gratitude can lead to a strong immune system, lower blood pressure, joy, ease of chronic pain etc. A simple gratitude practice can be five minutes making a list of the things in your day that support your comfort and safety. When you focus on this, gratitude begins to cultivate naturally.
2. Brain Nutrition
Nourishing ourselves with foods high in Omega-3s and healthy fats is one of the best ways to support a healthy brain and a quality meditation practice in which to shift your patterns. Our body uses Omega-3s and healthy fats to build grey matter in our brain. In addition to brain nutrition, hydration is essential to healthy cognitive function, concentration, attention, memory and self-directed neuroplasticity.
3. Daily Shaking Practice
When we experience a stress response, stress hormones (including adrenaline) move into the bloodstream and muscles contract and tighten in order for the body to engage in a fight-or-flight response for protection. When the body is in this state, we are at our most resistant to change.
In most of the stressors that we typically face in our daily lives, however, we do not hit or run our way out of the situation, and the contracted physical state remains for extended amounts of time unnecessarily. This ultimately creates a potential for long-term physical maladies and a mental rigidity that sabotages change. One of the best ways to release tension, stress, or contraction—and prime the brain for lasting change—is to quite literally shake it off!
Consider what a rabbit, or any mammal, does after it has been chased by a predator and is now safe: it likely hides under a bush or object and shakes until the adrenaline has dispelled and the muscles can relax. We can utilize this natural biological strategy to release muscle tension and alleviate stress hormone buildup in the body. Having a daily shaking practice releases tension and contraction, allowing for alleviation and relaxation. In the Ageless Grace exercise program (www.agelessgrace.com) our tool number 18, Shake it up Baby!, does exactly this.
4. Tapping with Non-Dominant Hand
When you are in a meditation and find yourself in a moment that you would like to access easily later or anchor in now, you can tap a part of your body with your non-dominant hand. Creating a physical sensation in connection with a particular experience creates an association. This physical association makes the experience more easily accessible later. With this simple tip you can give gentle reinforcement to your new pattern while standing in line at the grocery store, driving in your commute, cooking, or showering.
5. Daily Novelty Exercises
Pique your brain’s interest with novel activities every time it crosses your mind. Use imaginative yet non-threatening, simple exercises throughout the day to engage your brain and excite brain activity without a stressor. This will bring it into a heightened state of focus and receptivity to adaptation, which supports your brain’s capacity for pattern changes, problem-solving, goal-setting, and approaching your day with relaxed yet focused attention. For example, brush your teeth or hair with your non-dominant hand or get dressed out of order (opposite shoe first, shirt before pants).