6,200 is the average number of thoughts you have per day according to the latest research. If you wanted to write them all down, you would have a book written at the end of the day. The only question is, would you like someone to read it?
In most cases, it would be a book filled to the brim with worry about things that will never happen and complaints about yourself and others. We know from previous research on human thoughts that most of our thoughts are negative. It is estimated that about 80% of our thoughts are worrying, fears, criticizing ourselves and others. Considering that over 90% of these thoughts are the same as the day before, we poison our lives every day.
However, are you doomed to this uncontrolled stream of repetitive negative thoughts?
YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS
What if I told you that the negative thoughts in your mind are not you, but the fake messages your brain sends you? And since you are not your brain, you don’t need to listen to them.
Your inner state of mind is a major factor in why you do what you do, how you live and what you achieve. So your thoughts directly influence your quality of life.
We all experience situations where negative thoughts and tempting impulses make it difficult for us to achieve our goals and intentions. Moreover, they cause an avalanche of other disturbing thoughts and worries.
While it may seem we have no choice but to follow what our brain tells us, we must remember that our biology is not our destiny.
You are not doomed to live the life of your genes. You actually have the power to overcome many of the obstacles you’ve inherited by changing the way your brain works. In a word – take control of your brain.
Just how can you do this?
“MASTER YOUR BRAIN”
Jeffrey Schwartz is a researcher and psychiatrist who works at the UCLA School of Medicine with a primary focus on people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Together with Rebbecca Gladding, he wrote a book on a proven method of controlling negative and erroneous messages from the brain.
The book “Take control of your brain” combines the latest research in neuroplasticity with the four-step method.
The authors believe that we can use the power of our attention to change the brain in our favor. Schwartz and Gladding argue that many of our thoughts, impulses, drives, and feelings that we experience do not reflect who we are. These false messages have nothing to do with our real self – they are deceptive messages sent by the brain.
Realizing that not everything you think is true can be liberating. It will help you see situations when your brain is making your life difficult and react to them appropriately.
HOW YOU CREATE BAD HABITS
Why is it that even when we know we shouldn’t be doing something, we keep repeating it? Why do bad habits – such as smoking, drinking alcohol or binge-eating – seem impossible to overcome?
This is because when we behave unhealthily, it gives us a sense of relief from disturbing sensations. We look for temporary relief and respond to false brain messages. In this way, we train our brain to combine unhealthy behavior with a feeling of relief.
When we continually respond to negative internal messages in the same unhelpful way, we end up unconsciously reinforcing them. The more we do this, the more our brains create repetitive, automatic habits that can take over our lives and prevent us from being the people we want to be.
So is there any way to overcome these destructive brain messages?
According to the authors of “Take Control of Your Brain”, strength lies in concentration. If, instead of giving in to your brain’s erroneous messages, you’ve decided to resist them and focus on healthy behaviors, you can reprogram your brain.
A key element is the ability to recognize brain deceptive messages as they arise and refocus your attention on healthy activities. By doing this, you are redesigning your brain in a healthy, positive way that increases your sense of self and paves the way for more positive associations between thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions.
Brain reprogramming is possible thanks to self-directed neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of brain areas and connections to assume new roles and functions. If you take control of this skill, you will have an impact on your brain.
Self-guiding neuroplasticity is the basis of the proprietary four-step method described in the book “Take control of your brain”. The Four Steps is a program that helps you apply self-directed neuroplasticity to your situation. It will help you break the established brain pathways associated with unhealthy habits and strengthen those that support healthy activity.
This method was initially developed by Schwartz to help people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. It consists of 4 simple steps to increase awareness and focus your attention on healthier and more productive activities. By doing this, you are changing your brain in a positive way so that it works for a greater benefit to you.
The authors have been using this method for over 25 years, and its effectiveness has been confirmed by many scientific studies. The 4-step method is great for fighting unhealthy habits: overeating, alcohol abuse, addiction to a smartphone or the Internet. It will help you deal with perfectionism, postponing assignments and your fear of speaking.
I will show you how this method works in practice with a real-life example. Imagine it’s a weekend, and instead of enjoying your free time and relaxing, you check your work mailbox every few minutes.
While there is no need to check your messages in your off time, you do it as a habit. It starts to irritate you, but the temptation to test is stronger than you, so you give in to these impulses every time. See how the 4 steps method could help you.
STEP 1. NAME BY NAME
In this step, you recognize the brain’s deceptive messages and accompanying unpleasant feelings. After realizing what is happening, you name the action by its spade. You honestly say what’s going on: I am irresistibly tempted to check again for a new e-mail.
STEP 2. REFORM
Consider why these thoughts, desires, and impulses are on your mind – they are false messages sent by your brain. Say to yourself: it’s not me, it’s just my brain. In doing so, you are changing the way your brain perceives its deceptive messages.
If you want to check your e-mails again, say to yourself: I want to check again for any new e-mail. Checking for messages alleviates my anxiety that I will miss something important.
STEP 3. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Now is the time to redirect your attention to an action or thought process that is beneficial and productive. Don’t worry if the false desires, thoughts, impulses, or feelings persist and are still trying to get your attention. Remind yourself that it’s the weekend and it’s time to do something non-work related – something you like. Do something that interests you and will make you feel better.
STEP 4. REVALUE
In this step, you are trying to understand that these thoughts, desires, and impulses are just deceptive messages sent out by the brain. Not only are they false and worthless, but they make you fall into a loop of unhealthy habits. Therefore, you should ignore these erroneous messages instead of paying attention to them and recording them.
Sounds simple, right? The method is very simple, but entering it is not that easy. In the book “Take control of your brain” you will find described cases of many people who have successfully implemented this method. They share their tips on how to best implement this method, what to watch out for, and how to deal with obstacles.
Additionally, the book includes exercises and tactics to help you deal with unhealthy habits, self-doubt and perfectionism.
However, it is not enough to use this method once. To reprogram your brain for healthy behavior, you need to make the 4-step method… a habit. It is best to use it as often as possible to teach the brain new and better responses.
The reward for persistence in using this method is not only to get rid of habits that damage your health. By recognizing your brain’s deceptive messages, you will reach your true self. Your true self is who you really are – a good and unconditionally loved person. Someone who doesn’t have to be perfect and doesn’t need to focus on others to deserve love, acceptance and adoration.