When I was growing up, I lived in Loveland, Colorado and I used to ride my bike everywhere! I could ride to the baseball fields where my brother played, my friend Sam’s house or Kate’s, my elementary school and even a tiny grocery store to buy candy. I have fond memories of the freedom I had once I could get myself around town. I was able to go back to Loveland a few years ago with my own family, and I was very surprised when I remembered almost all of the streets and exactly how to get around town, even though I hadn’t been back in 30 years! One of my favorite memories was finding the old church building my Dad used to be the Pastor at and discovering it was off of Franklin Street. Funnier still, was that no one in my family remembered the street name until a friend helped us find it using Google Maps.
I do generally have a good sense of direction and was not totally surprised I remembered so much about the streets I lived on as a child. We moved away when I was in 6th grade so I was surprised that I remembered so much because I was young when we moved. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the brain and how we have the ability to rewire our brains, daily. The fancy word for this is called neurogenesis. Essentially this means that overnight, new neurons are created in the brain and are ready every morning for the new information we’ll acquire that day. Once I understood this concept, it made sense to me why I was able to still find my way around Loveland so many years ago.
The brain is very amazing to me and I have a tendency to geek out over it. I love its complexity. One of the things researchers have learned is that in order for us as humans to make a new pathway in our brains, we have to spend 7-15 minutes a day focused on one thing. As we focus on this one thing, our brain opens up a new pathway, the more we use that pathway the easier it is to recall information or build on information contained within that pathway. For example, if you found Algebra to be really difficult to understand, if you spend 5-15 minutes studying every single day, the pathway in your brain for Algebra will begin to grow and develop, and it eventually will become easier and easier to learn those concepts. This is true for anything really. If you have ever heard the saying “it takes 21 days to form a new habit” this is definitely true and supported by research.
Your brain is always looking for like or similar circumstances to file information or experiences within your brain pathways. As your brain takes in all of the information, it is assessing it and trying to make predictions about where to “file” the information as it is coming in. The pre-frontal cortex of your brain is like a giant filing system for your brain! All of this happens with in .04 of second! Therefore, your brain is always trying to make predictions on what you should think or do, say or act. So, the more you go over and over a certain pathway in your brain, this pathway becomes easier and easier for the brain to use. Think about making a new trail up a mountain with a lot of trees and brush. It would take weeks or even years to make a pathway. But for your brain, once a new pathway is open, it will try and take that one as often as it can because it is the path of least resistance. I use this saying very often: “your brain is like water, it takes the path of least resistance.”
Here’s some bad news about these new pathways. When a bad thing happens or a negative experience happens, whether or it be traumatic or just hard. A new pathway opens up in your brain immediately. For example, if someone makes a negative comment about your hair or outfit, and you’re already feeling insecure about how you look that day, a new pathway opens up and you go over and over that pathway because, it’s the “path of least resistance” for your brain. Therefore, the next time you’re feeling insecure about how you look, the pathway in your brain is primed and ready to take the negative one that’s already open, available and easy.
Here’s some good news. The less we use the pathways, even the negative ones, the brain “prunes” those and files them away to a distant part of the brain’s filing system. Think of your brain “archiving” information you no longer need. The more you can find detours, or open different, more positive pathways in your brain, the easier it will be for your brain to go to these first rather than the negative ones. See why I geek out over the brain? It’s amazing!
For the month of December, I’m going to give you tips and tricks on how you can “rewire” your brain and be able to acknowledge how you’re feeling and yet not get overwhelmed by it. One of the most common symptoms my clients complain about is their negative thinking. This week, I’m focusing on Mindfulness and Meditation and the things you can do to help you Quiet Your Inner Mean Voice once and for all!
If you found this article helpful, I’d love for you to share it with a friend to help them Quiet their own Inner Mean Voice. I hope this gives you hope to find the right tools to quiet your inner voice once and for all. If you need more help understanding the HSP trait, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling. If you are looking for help with depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.