“Your strongest muscle and worst enemy is your mind. Train it well.” –Unknown
I LOVE brains. I could talk about them all day! We take our brains for granted. Our brain controls everything we think, see, smell, say and do. Neurons connect, synapsis fire and millions of actions happen. And we don’t have a clue it’s happening.
Super cool – except when it’s not. When emotions are involved, we react in ways we don’t even realize. The environment we grow up in creates neural pathways that trigger during emotional conversations, and we just react without having a clue what just happened. It's a habit – and a habit that needs to be changed.
Let me give you an example of what this looks like in real life: You come home from a hard day at work. Your kid doesn’t clean up like he was asked to and instead of having a conversation about it, you just react with a raised voice and a “finger pointing” attitude. The results? You feel bad, your kid feels shamed, and no resolution has been found to the ongoing “kid not cleaning up” problem isn’t found.
Sound familiar? Me too, because we all do it. Our brain neurons fire and we react. Every. Single. Day.
You can change the habit. It takes time, intention and accountability. How do I know? Because I’ve done it. Perfection is not the goal…intention is.
4 WAYS TO BUILD NEW NEURONS AND START ACTING, INSTEAD OF REACTING
I wish I had a dollar for every eye roll I’ve encountered when I’ve recommended clients breathe. But, it works….every time. Our brains are designed to protect us from threats. When you feel stress, fear and worry/anxiety, our brains think we’re in literal danger. The body tenses up preparing to fight, flee or freeze through the threat. Sounds cool but here’s what you need to understand: when your brain is in fight, flight or freeze mode, the part of your brain you need to rationalize through and take action is not working. And off we go into reactionary mode.
Breathing slowly in and out reminds your brain you aren’t in danger and gets your action brain back online. This will allow you to control yourself, instead of controlling the “perceived” threat in front of you.
Pay attention: what is your brain saying….
You probably don’t have any idea but your brain is saying all kinds of awful things during these times: “You keep doing this”, “Don’t you know better?”, “You’re a bad mom/dad”. Once you slow down the brain with breathing and start paying attention, you’ll be shocked at the negative chatter in your head. This negative chatter gets passed down to our children, even if we aren’t saying the words out loud – our reactions create chaos, and our children pick up the chaos.
Write it out..
Writing information out is so powerful because it forces the two parts of your brain to work together, and it forces the frontal lobe to come back online. You absolutely can type or use an app, but it’s not going to give you the same experience because of the brain power it takes to handwrite. Hate journaling – most of us do. Consider it research to find out what is really going on in the brain instead of what you think is going on in the brain.
Change is hard and it takes time. Building new neurons around old habits takes intention and new routines. Perfection is never the goal….but a life of calm when life is not stressful, and a little more chaotic when life feels too big. We will ALWAYS go back to the old neural connections during stressful times because it’s what our brain knows. Once you have built in the new neural pathways, it will be much easier to get back to them.
Mattie Cummins, LCSW, is a neuro-social worker, coach and counselor with over 25 years working with people with anxiety, neuro-diversity and life transitions. She is the owner of Cerebrations, LLC, a coaching and consulting business that specializes in empowering people to tap into their own internal strength and beauty to step boldly into a life of intention. Connect with Mattie by booking a free consult call.