Neuroscientists maintain you have pathways in the brain that get stronger with each repetition. This is adaptive, as it makes learning go from awkward to second nature. Do you actually think about putting your foot on the gas pedal while driving? That neural pathway is so deeply established you feel as if you’re on auto-pilot; the lesson has become almost unconscious. Similarly, you have deeply ingrained thought patterns about your relationship with yourself and others. These, too, have become embedded from years of repetition.
When you want to change a long held belief you need to assiduously practice thinking differently, as the old way is almost tattooed on your brain. It is not going to disappear and can’t be excised. The only way to lessen its influence is to create a new, stronger pathway; and, the only way to achieve that is by constantly practicing new thoughts.
If you have the motivation and self-discipline to take on this task, understand: the old neural pathway can be reactivated under certain circumstances. Let’s say you have successfully adopted a new, positive belief about yourself. You go home for a visit and someone says something that pushes a button in you and stimulates the old pathway, and your former pattern of response. That pathway may have been dormant but it is still there. Luckily, just because an old thought or pattern rears its head doesn’t mean it’s taking over. Don’t be discouraged. You can constantly repeat your positive thoughts until you have reinvigorated the new pathway.
The more you practice thinking positively, the better you will feel. Start with the Litany of Love or Affirmations pages on this site. Pick one and repeat it many times a day. Watch as this new neural pathway gains strength and eclipses your old patterns. Pay attention to how that effects your feelings. Consciously choose thoughts that increase your well-being. When old, unhelpful beliefs show up, gently and lovingly replace them with something optimistic. Eventually, these new ways of looking at yourself and the world will become second nature.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang