* Please note this is a series – if you are new here, first of all, thank you for visiting us. You are always welcome. Secondly, should you want to read this series from the beginning or pick and choose by topic, click the “Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Makeover” tab under the header above.
So we’ve talked about a lot of crud. (Yes, I have a sophisticated vocabulary.)
Crud that makes your thoughts stink and, if you’re like me, sneakily suffocates and before you know it, deep, neural pathways have been formed in your brain that are difficult, albeit possible, to change.
Recently, one of my friends shared that negative thinking actually forms deeply-grooved neural pathways in the brain – pathways that cause us to immediately jump to the negative, “the-sky-is-falling” type of thinking. In researching a bit on this myself, I found “neural pathways” described as “thick ropes that keep gaining strength each time a pattern of thought is given attention or interest.” (Click here to read full article.)
In other words, we’re programmed this way.
The same article also explains that “If you’ve spent many years giving attention to negative thought patterns, there would be a presence of strong neural pathways in your brain for these thoughts. Also, the brain has the tendency to repeat the thought patterns which have a strong neural pathway, thus it becomes a cycle of reinforcement where the pattern which is strong becomes stronger each day. If you’ve been inclined to negative thinking for a long time, it’s bound to have created a strong neural pathway in your brain, and once you make a conscious shift towards positivity, it will take time before the old pathways are brought down and new pathways are built.”
So it IS possible to stop these thoughts and overhaul our thinking but it’s going to take some patience with yourself and time.
How do we change our pathways, sisters?
Six Steps to Reprogramming The Mind:
1. Pray. Confess each negative thought (pride, disdain, hopelessness) to God. Thinking negatively is actually a distrust of God and what He promises. Ask Him to enter-in to this with you and change your neural pathways – with His strength.
2. Enlist accountability. Are you going to “fast” from negative thoughts for a week? Tell someone who lives with you. Perhaps, come up with a signal that the other person can give you if they hear you expelling negative words. If you’re struggling, share with this “safe” person so they can offer support.
3. Begin with awareness. If you want to get really hard-core with this, carry around a little notebook or index card and record any negative thought you have throughout the day. Thoughts about yourself, others, situations – anything is eligible. In fact, watch-out for “sneaky negativity” as well – retorts like “this world’s going to pot!” after watching the news or if it’s raining, thinking “this is a gloomy, horrible day!” These count, too! (If writing is too difficult for you at this season in your life, stop the thought in its tracks and perhaps keep a tally of how many negative thoughts you are having.)
4. Beside the negative thought you have recorded, write down the antidote to this thought. For example, if I think “My children never pick-up their toys” I could instead think “I’m managing my blessings” while gently reminding them to put their toys away. (If you aren’t recording your thoughts, think of the antidote.)
5. Avoid the words “never” and “always.” They’re hopeless words that spoil fruit.
6. Look for patterns. Are there times during the day when your thoughts are stinkier than other times? What underlying factors are contributing to your negative thinking? Is there something you can do to ease these moments? If not, you should probably “change” how you think about them. Sometimes the anxiety of certain situations have been conditioned into our thinking and we just expect the bad to happen. For example, my husband is a dentist. He’s had parents who are afraid of going to the dentist themselves insist on sitting next to their child to “soothe” them. They will repeatedly say things like “It’s OK, honey. It’s not that scary. If something hurts, it will only be for a minute.” Guess what? Their child has now developed a fear of the dentist and they haven’t even opened their mouth.
Most of all, have grace with yourself. This won’t happen overnight. There will be good days and not-so-good days. Expect the good.
What do you do to change your thinking?
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
– Romans 12:2