What you focus on grows stronger
Do you know that you are in a waking sleep more than you are present?
A Harvard study showed that on any given day we have about 50,000 thoughts, 98% of these are repetitive. 47% of these are wandering. A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
Mindfulness allows us to focus our attention with ease so we are more present and more happy, as a result.
Neuroplasticity means our brains are constantly changing and shaped by forces around us.The wiring in our brains is not fixed, its adaptable. It can change. We can transform and train our minds by being mindful and developing this skill of being present.
Stress, worry and irritability are a direct result of a wandering mind – those thoughts which are either regrets about the past or worrying about the future. So, we are worrying about things that may not ever happen and missing the present moment. This leads to stress which causes us to act in ways that aren’t healthy. The more we worry, the better we become at worrying as by doing so you are strengthening those connections in your brain and training that worry muscle to get nice and strong. By doing that, it becomes your default reaction.
Overthinking and allowing your brain to rule you leads to stress, anxiety and depression.
How meditating can help
You are much more likely to go after your goals by practicing meditation as you have mastered the art of observing negative emotions and fear, without embodying them. It’s why a lot of highly successful people are trained meditators. They know it gives them the competitive edge in business. You are not likely to let fear, worry, procrastination stand in your way and you’re not concerned about other people’s opinions about you.
It’s why on our Bali retreats we remove distractions of having to think and multi task and control your day by doing everything for our guests so they can just show up and drift from one spa treatment to the pool and back to a yoga class, effortlessly. It’s why we have so many mindful activities on offer that allow our guests to drop into their yoga retreat in Bali. Yoga, meditation, even surfing, fitness and meal times are all mindful activities. These help us create stronger mindfulness practices.
Other benefits include, better memory, more creative, able to learn, higher levels of self- confidence, and more empathy to those around you. All your senses come alive so you see, hear and taste better too. Your sleep will be deeper and your overall sense of happiness and wellbeing will be elevated. How’s that for great side effects?!
You have the ability to rewire your mind through mindfulness. At our Bali yoga retreat, after a week of mindfulness, we can see the differences in women who transform through slowing their minds down and being present. It’s such a physical shift.
We can take more responsibility for our own brains, personality, emotions, by transforming our minds. When we transform our mind, we transform our personality and there are some simple ways that can help do this without having to travel to do a retreat in Bali.
Recent discoveries over past ten years have found that every time we think, feel or learn something new, a new neural connection appears in our brain. Those things that you repeat the most make those neural connections stronger and overtime the connections that we don’t use, grow weaker and disappear.
So what you focus on grows stronger
That’s why habits are automatic and we don’t need to think about them. Say for example, having a shower in the morning and getting dressed – effortless (strong pathway) but say its making yourself a juice takes same amount of time but feels like a lot more effort to make a fresh juice (weak pathway) as that’s not a routine. If you stopped having a shower for a few days, the effort associated with this too, will increase as the pathway weaken
If you wish to make healthy habits become more automatic and less effort, then focus on doing these and they too, will become effortless and automatic.
We don’t choose our behaviour, its programmed by this wiring in our brain.
What lies beneath the surface controls us
If you think about an ice berg, that below the waterline is our subconscious. We are not aware we are controlled by this. Neural connections are strong in this part. Automatic over reacting is our personality. People don’t think they can change how they act and react but they can!
Actually, just those thoughts, emotions and habits that we have repeated the most that are now entrenched in us and continue to repeat on a daily basis. These are our personality. So to change that, perhaps we exhibit frustration and want to release this, we focus on being patient instead, in situations that would normally trigger us. This will take effort at the start and feel uncomfortable but as you practice patience more, you become patient. Impatience therefore ceases to be your default as the pathway weakens.
We can train our brains to think differently.
To change ourselves we need to change our brains by creating new connections within these. And practising these until they become strong and automatic. This means that stuff we find hard now we find becomes easier the more we practice it. Like when we first learnt to read or walk.
Meditation practice allows us to create new connections in our brain. Allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go. Attention, Awareness and Concentration will increase as you focus on meditating more.
Meditation has been shown to decrease the size of the mygdala which is the fear centre of our brain. Its where all our negative emotions and thoughts come from.
It also decreases the stress hormone cortisol allowing you to deal with pressure situations alot better.
When we feel upset, guilty, shamed the mygdala grows and shuts down the ability to grow or learn from a situation. So, the situation keeps repeating itself, time and time again. The irony is that its those things that we are shameful of that require our attention but its impossible to do this when we are in a shame or guilt cycle as we stop observing and instead judge meaning its too painful to look and resolve. That pattern then entrenches this.
To be able to change this, requires you to observe your reactions with kindness and gently bring yourself back to how you prefer to react to a situation. That way, you are setting new neural pathways that are healthy and because you are free of judgement, you are open to growth.
So what can we do to help us rewire our brains and focus on more of what we want?
The four pillars of a healthy mind
1.Awareness – This is being able to observe yourself and resisting the urge to be distracted. Meta Awareness is knowing where our attention is. Like blindly reading book, or driving in car – lapse of meta awareness. Moment we realise and come back to the present, that’s meta awareness. So we focus on doing this as often as we can during our day. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, just be all there when you are doing that. Your attention will wander, that’s a given, but when it does, catch your attention going and bring it back. The more you do this, the stronger you will get at being able to control your attention = mindfulness. Try meditation as this will really sharpen this ability to be aware.
2. Second pillar is connection. Developing appreciation, kindness, compassion and having a positive outlook. Doesn’t take much to activate these qualities, that will become stronger. Seek opportunities to practice these. At first, it may feel difficult but it will become easier the more you do this.
3. Third pillar of healthy mind is being aware of the inner critic – having an insight into the narrative that we have about ourselves. Some people at the polar end of the spectre that hold very negative beliefs and think that’s who they are and they can’t change. That’s a prescription for depression. At the other end of the scale a healthy mind entails changing our relationship into this narrative. Use your journal to capture any unhelpful dialogue and notice how you felt when you just observed it and didn’t embody the negative chatter. It loses its strength the more times we practice observation.
Changing our relationship to this narrative is the key. Remember it’s just a constellation of thoughts. It’s not truth. So be kind about yourself and the more you are, the more automatic this kind voice will become. Positive affirmations can help with this.
4. The fourth pillar is purpose. I don’t mean its about finding your ikigai. Rather, it’s more doing the small things each day with purpose and intention. Link them to their purpose. I’m bringing my partner tea as its kind and that’s a value of mine. I’m at the gym as I value my health and its making my body strong and my mind feel lighter.
As you can see the brain can change quickly. With systematic practice new changes can be made. Learning is one thing but doing is another and this is what will create new neural connections in your brain, strengthen them until they become routine and automatic.
We recommend starting with baby steps that you do consistently.
3 minutes a day doing a mindfulness activity – try brushing your teeth in the other hand one morning.Perhaps you want to introduce more health into your morning so make a green juice every morning. Or put on a 5 minute meditation each morning before getting out of bed. Whatever it is, do it consistently and see the ease replace the effort as the pathway becomes strong. Next, try something else and build from there.
Just like brushing our teeth was a learned behaviour. It was never part of our geno. So too, can you make changes that become strong and effortless. Now the question is, which ones do you want to focus on first?
It’s a given that you attention will wander but you are the master of bringing it back and focussing it. By doing so you will experience more energy, better sleep, higher positivity levels, more success chasing your dreams and goals, better relationships and overall health. Compelling reason to give it a go right?