Part 4 of the Blog Series by Carol (an EASE Meditation Member) –
I know it sounds dramatic – don’t plan on having Electric Shock Therapy or anything – but it is possible to change the way your brain works, just by purposely changing the way you think and the way you respond to stimuli.
I had read articles and books about brain plasticity – there are the most amazing stories about people who have adapted their brains to compensate for things like, stroke, not being able to see, experiencing phantom pain after losing a limb, recovering from clinical depression etc.
But would it really be possible to rewire my brain to become more positive just by using the tools I learned in meditation?
Fight or Flight Response
The first thing to understand is that the human brain is basically wired to anticipate the worst. This was a survival technique necessity for our ancestors who faced physical danger every day. When the brain detects a threat of any kind, Adrenaline and Cortisone flood the system so that your heartbeat speeds up, your pupils dilate, your blood pressure increases and you can move faster. It also gives an energy boost to your muscles to give you extra strength.
Although, obviously amazingly useful if you are trying to get away from a charging elephant, these hormones, if released into the system too often, will temporarily suppress your immune system and can even change your metabolism. They also have longer term after effects such as heart problems, ulcers, premature aging and the promotion of the growth of tumors. They also cause more anxiety and depression. It is a vicious circle because if you are just generally anxious your body is releasing these hormones into your system all the time and it’s bad for you physically and emotionally.
Mindfulness Put Into Practice
The first step that I took on this journey was to consciously try and notice the good and the beauty in the people and things around me. Instead of driving to work and getting all stressed out by traffic and bad drivers, I started to notice how beautiful the old trees on Cambie boulevard are. Sitting in a traffic jam I occupy myself by observing the behaviour of the crows (who have become fascinating to me) or noticing the sky and the clouds.
I also began to stop myself every time I had a judgmental or cynical thought – at first (obviously), I doubted that doing this would change anything, but I decided to persevere because I wanted to see if I could actually change my brain. I also began meditation at this time and I tried to focus as much as possible on the positive.
At first, it all felt quite forced. I had to make a effort to remember not to think negative thoughts because my brain had become so used to always assuming the worst, to being pessimistic and angry, to not paying attention to what really matters. My relationships were suffering too, because I was constantly projecting my own insecurities onto others and then getting upset because things/people were not the way they should be (according to my own standards).
An important step to take is to think about why you are so frequently disappointed in or hurt by others. Imagine if you could accept that everyone is perfect just the the way they are, if you could learn to love people for their uniqueness as opposed to in spite of it. If you truly think about it, this would free you of the terrible burden of always being unhappy because things are not turning out the way you expected them to. It would also, more importantly, free you of the burden of thinking that you are responsible for others happiness. The only person who’s happiness you are responsible for is your own.
Rewired and Positively Charged
For me, learning to see the world like this was a revelation. I felt as though everything around me was glorious, beautiful, and perfect. I suddenly saw with total clarity what it’s all about. The anger fell away, the resentments, the anxiety, the judgments – gone. I saw that my partner was perfect the way he is, all the supposed flaws that I had seen before, became some of the reasons why I love him so much.
I know that I have made progress in my attempt to reshape my brain because, I no longer have to remember to think positively, I just do.