03 Oct Sculpting Your Thoughts
Did you know that your thoughts TODAY are able to rewire your brain for higher levels of confidence, certainty, composure, and concentration? You can HEAL trauma and find wholeness no matter what has happened in your past!
God gifted each of us with a wonderfully complex brain, with the ability to change our thought patterns. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
This is possible because of a concept called neuroplasticity, the ability of our brains neural pathways to actually reshape and reform. Through intentional thought, we can actually rewire our brains to minimize negative thinking, reshape limiting beliefs about ourselves, and move toward a more positive, healthy life.
One response I received to my last post on changing your thoughts was, “But HOW do I do it? How do I use neuroplasticity to my advantage and rewire my brain?” So today I want to introduce you to a resource I think will change your life!
The process is called Neurosculpting®, and it was developed by Lisa Wimberger. Neurosculpting utilizes the changing neurons in the brain by focusing directly on the type of reinforcement our neural pathways receive. The key is that our neural pathways grow stronger or weaker over time, depending on the type of reinforcement received.
Our brain cells, our neurons, are unique. Each one has structures called dendrites extending from them toward the neurons around it. They look like roads on a map connecting different towns! Those dendrites carry messages from one neuron to the next, like roads carry cars from one town to the next. When a neuron receives a message, it moves through the dendrites to the next neuron. If the message/information is powerful or strong enough, the next neuron in line passes it on.
This process forms a thought network, building roads so the signal—the message—can travel more easily in the future. Everything you learn, every thought, every bit of sensory input, builds new roads and forms new pathways. The more often the same input is received, the stronger and more traveled the pathway. Neuroplasticity allows the formation of new roads.
Sculpting Your Brain by Choosing Your Thoughts
A Map Of Our Brains
Have you ever been stuck on a major highway in a traffic jam? Likely there were other roads you could have taken, but they weren’t as fast, as well-built, or they didn’t go exactly where you needed to go. The pathways in our brain are kind of like those major highways. The ones we use the most are busiest. The messages travel faster and easier. They go right were we send them. But sometimes they get jammed up. There is too much input, or we are inputting the wrong message. When that happens, we need to reroute our thoughts and build up new pathways.
Our goal is a brain map that is strong and is full of pathways and alternate routes. One thing you need to understand is that our neural pathways are use it or lose it. The less we use connections, the more they deactivate. This process is known as the “Hebbian Rule.” Donald Hebb summitted the hypothesis that when two neurons are active at the same time, the synapses (pathways) between them are strengthened. This creates networks from the pre-existing “wiring” in our brains. Hebb’s hypothesis proved correct, and researchers used that idea to discover neuroplasticity!
Any knowledge you rarely access or behaviors you seldom use result in neural pathways that are weaker. Some connections may even be lost completely!
Careful and Intentional Progress
Neuroplasticity is a powerful tool. But it can hurt your brain and your mental health as easily as help it. Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life talks about what he calls “negative learning.” He writes, “It is almost just as easy to drive changes that can impair one’s memory or slow down one’s mental or physical control as it is to improve one’s memory or speed up the brain’s actions.” You must take great care when you work to rewire your thinking. Neurosculpting uses deliberate, careful steps to institute change.
In her book, Neurosculpting, Wimberger says, “Neurosculpting is a mental training process that quiets our fight or flight center and activates our prefrontal cortex, which is the mind’s seat of compassion and empathy. It also engages left- and right-brain stimulation and incorporates somatic awareness for a whole-brain and whole-body approach to meditation and rewiring. It’s a lifestyle of day-to-day exercises, nutritional tenets, and meditations designed to allow dialogue between compartmentalized and silenced parts of ourselves. It involves learning about a brain supportive diet, exercising, and identifying and enhancing opportunities for neuroplasticity throughout your day …”
That may sound complex, and in some ways it is, but it can also be approached on a smaller scale. On her Neurosculpting Institute website, she tells us, “The practice can be as simple as some daily meditations and mental exercises, and as comprehensive as a full life-plan to include nutrition, exercise, sleep hygiene, and one-on-one support.”
Wimberger’s Neurosculpting® practice follows five steps:
The first step is regulating your stress level and learning about your body’s natural responses to stressful situations. You do this by intentionally pausing when you encounter a stress response. We all encounter stressful situations each day. Yours might be when you are stuck in traffic, when your child throws a tantrum, when your boss hands you a big project and wants it done yesterday, or maybe it’s when you and your spouse disagree with each other. Your reaction might vary: increased pulse, higher blood pressure, a flash of anger, or the desire to run away. The intentional pause helps you catalogue your reaction. You start to learn how your body reacts to negative situations so you can institute thought process changes.
The second step is an enhanced, focused attention. This will help you start the process of emotional regulation. Stress has a way of scattering our thoughts. Those well-worn neural pathways light up and we react instinctively. This second step is only possible after you intentionally pause and assess the situation. In that moment, you then focus your attention on your emotions and evaluate what you need to change. If your child is throwing the twelfth tantrum of the day you might feel despair, frustration, anger. When your boss is unreasonable you might shut down or feel overwhelmed. When you argue with your spouse you might feel hurt, frustrated, angry, or even resigned. You can’t make a change until you know what you need to change.
In the third step, you increase the interaction between your “analytical self and your intuitive feeling self.” We are reactionary creatures. Very few people react to stress and trauma with analysis of the situation. Instead we enter a highly emotional “fight or flight” state. By pausing and focusing our attention on our reaction, we are then able to take a mental step back and look at the situation more logically. We need to form neural connections between these two parts of our brain.
The fourth step creates a link between sensation-based engagement to perceptual shifts in patterns. Once you have formed those new connections, you have to intentionally use them. If your pulse starts to race and your blood pressure goes up, you want your brain to instinctively pause, focus your attention, and recognize why you are reacting that way. When you do this, you shift the pattern. You will develop the ability to react intentionally instead of instinctively. This gives you the ability to stop your boss and say, “This is a great project, and it deserves my full attention. Can I pass some of my other work off to other employees while I focus on this, or is there someone else who will be assisting with the project?” Your analytical side allows you to show you recognize the importance, but you are not able to do it alone with what you already have on your plate. You have shifted the pattern from reactionary to deliberate action.
The fifth step allows you to identify and replicate the process in day-to-day activities. When you reach this fifth step, you have rewired your brain! You have created new, healthier pathways in your brain. The more you use them, the stronger they become. The less you use the old, unhealthy thought patterns, the weaker they will become.
Every day I encounter people who are stuck in negative thought processes. I counsel women who have suffered trauma and are struggling to move on. I work with young leaders who are letting stress and uncertainty rule their lives. Each of these individuals has the power to rewire their brain. By doing so, they move from a place of struggle to a thriving, active, forward-moving life!
Start right now by ASKING GOD to help you. PRAY out loud: “God, I believe your Word, and it says that I can bring every thought under control. Today, I am asking you to help me practice these steps and to change my thinking so my brain rewires to elevated thinking! I am starting NOW! Amen!”