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Creating New Neural Pathways to Change Your Mindset

Neural Pathways

How we communicate to ourselves plays an integral role in our mindset and positive thoughts. When we talk to ourselves in a demeaning way, it fine tunes the neural pathways of the beliefs we’re trying to rid ourselves of. And you may be arguing to yourself, “Well it’s sarcasm” or “I’m just being funny.” But our subconscious mind isn’t aware of things like sarcasm or our particular tone of comedy. All our subconscious hears are the words we’re saying as the truth. Over the last several years of my intentional living journey, I’ve slowly changed the way I speak to myself. And from this change, I’ve seen an extraordinary shift in my mindset. I believe myself capable of achieving more, I’m a more positive person, and most importantly, I speak to myself kindly.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect. If I had to guess, I’d say three or four years ago I was negative about roughly 70% of my thoughts. Today, after years of teaching myself to speak differently and believe differently, I’d say now I speak to myself about 70% of the time with great positivity; and the majority of that change has happened most in the last year. How we communicate with ourselves and how we speak about ourselves to others is critical to what we truly believe. And every time we say something negative about ourselves, like “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good enough for that”, we further reinforce the neural pathway that believes that. When I figured this out, I changed the way I started speaking with myself, and it effectively changed my life.

How Neural Pathways Intersect With How We Communicating With Ourselves

Neural Pathways

Before we dive into the language, let’s start with how our mind and subconscious minds work. You may have noticed I mentioned ‘neural pathways,’ which I talk a lot about on the blog and podcast. Back in middle school, we all learned about firing neurons back. When our neurons fire, they create neural pathways in our brain that establish patterns. These patterns are built of our daily habits, routines, thought processes, etc. Every single thing we do daily creates a neural pathway. When we’re younger, our neural pathways consist of more survival skills than anything as we build our knowledge. But once we get older, neural pathways are built on habits, both positive and negative. The habit or addiction of smoking is a neural pathway. The habit of going to the gym everyday is a neural pathway.

Similarly, the habit of saying “I’ll never pass this class” is also a neural pathway. Neural pathways are built on the repetition of thinking or doing something. And it takes roughly 10,000 repetitions or about 3 months for a pathway to be built. Now that might seem like a lot, but it’s really not. Think about it. How many times a day do you think that mean thought to yourself? And for how long have you believed that? It’s easy to create a ‘negative’ neural pathway of a thought. So how do we go about changing this? You know the saying “You change your thoughts, and you’ll change your life?” It all starts with how we communicate with ourselves.

How to Begin changing your thought patterns

The beginning of something new is always where the most challenge lies. Once we begin to get into the habit of something, it gets easier everyday, until eventually, we don’t even need to think about it. I’ve had this conversation with friends, clients, and myself. The hardest part is always beginning. And when we’re changing something such as a thought pattern, the difficulty lies somewhere even further. It’s not hard to set ten reminders in your phone everyday to say to yourself, “I love my body.” The true challenge lies in believing it. Saying something you don’t believe (or you’re not attempting to believe) won’t take the effect you’re looking for. Here’s where the gray area starts to come in when changing neural pathways of what you believe.

There is a fine line between belief and commitment. If you say something enough times, with enthusiasm and commitment, you will start to believe it. This is where people tend to get stuck in this process; and where I did too at first. The idea here is to say what you want to believe with the understanding that you may not fully believe it now, but you will eventually. The first month or so of trying to change a thought pattern feels like a lie to yourself. It can feel like you’re pretending, saying what you want to believe, but actually believing the opposite. But it’s not a lie. You are capable of doing something you thought you couldn’t. You are capable of loving your body, of trying that new thing, of passing that test, of learning something new.

Changing Your Communication

We’re capable of far more than we believe. And if we can believe that single thought, we can believe in the thought we’re trying to change. Every neural pathway begins and ends with a thought. To change the negative pathways, you have to change the way you think. Stop talking to yourself in a way that reinforces that negative thought. Stop saying you can’t when you can. Every change within ourselves begins with saying we can, then believing it. When I started speaking to myself in a different way (even if I didn’t always believe it), it started to change my life. Everything I believed about myself shifted and I started to see what I was truly capable of. Effective communication with ourselves isn’t as impossible as it seems. Choose a thought you want to change and start believing something different. Just begin, and everything will start to change.

Xo,  lauren

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