Each thought we have can actually change the structure of our brain.
This is why it's so important to practice catching our negative thinking and changing it. When we focus on our pain and sadness for too long we are actually strengthening those neural pathways and enforcing that mode of thinking, and therefore feeling.
This doesn't mean we should shove those thoughts and feelings down and ignore them, but recognizing destructive thought patterns is hugely important. So how do we change that broken record in our mind? Gratitude. Appreciation. The next time you find yourself in a negative train of thought, take a moment to notice how you feel in your body. Then play the "what I like" game. Look around and take notice of whatever it is you see that appeals to you, and silently name it to yourself. For example, I like the way the clouds look today; I like the way that tree is blossoming. Then notice how that feels in your body.
By taking notice of our thoughts, and practicing appreciation, we can strengthen those neural pathways. Neuroplasticity is the reason it can be difficult to change our patterns. We have wired our brain to be a certain way - but the good news is, that can change.
When we practice changing our own negativity, we can also affect how others feel. A deliberate suggestion can influence how others behave and even perform, according to research. But it’s not just deliberate suggestion that influences our thoughts and behaviors – suggestions that are not deliberate can have the very same effects. As the researchers point out, “simply observing people or otherwise making them feel special can be suggestive,” a phenomenon termed the Hawthorne effect. As a result, people might work harder, or stick to a task for longer.
Not only can our thoughts change how we feel, our posture can as well. Amy Cuddy's TED talk on "power poses" is one of the most viewed TED talks of all time. Our intention really does shape what we do and who we are. So next time you have an important meeting, take a few minutes to take some power poses. You'll be changing your body chemistry, elevating levels of testosterone and decreasing levels of cortisol. You'll feel more confident and assertive, while decreasing anxiety.
Our thoughts are so powerful, and so connected to our physical body. We see this clearly with the placebo effect. Our expectations influence our outcomes. A recent study suggests that even if we expect a placebo, if we are conditioned to think it works, it will still work.
While treating wounded American soldiers during World War II, Henry Beecher ran out of pain-killing morphine. Desperate, he decided to continue telling the soldiers that he was giving them morphine, although he was actually infusing them with a saline solution. Amazingly, 40 percent of the soldiers reported that the saline treatment eased their pain.
Henry Beecher discovered the placebo effect as a medic in World War II. After running out of pain-killing morphine, he replaced it with a simple saline solution but continued telling the wounded soldiers it was morphine to calm them. To his surprise, almost half of the soldiers reported that the inert saline solution actually reduced or erased their pain. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine and the United States Army.
Expecting something to happen will affect the way you behave and perceive. Understand that the power of suggestion is always working. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding this!
I write about human behavior, meditation, body awareness, and a variety of other things that pique my interest.