Retrain your brain

Your Weekly Motivation

I read a story recently in The Word For You Today Devotional under the topic, “Retrain Your Brain” and decided to use it as the basis of my article today.

Pastor Jim Penner said: “A friend of mine recently went through hip-replacement surgery…the joint had worn to the point where he walked with a limp and had to use a crutch. Thanks to the skill of a modern-day surgeon he was quickly up and around again. Yet for months after the surgery his limp remained…I ran into him this morning and the limp was gone. Where did it go? It had been there the day before. Had it vanished in the night? ‘You’re walking great,’ I said. ‘What happened?’ His response was priceless. ‘My physical therapist told me I had to retrain my brain.’ His brain had been trained to expect pain so he limped in anticipation. Even when he didn’t feel the pain his brain said, ‘Hang on. It’s coming!’”

I found that story quite profound. The gentleman had become so accustomed to the pain that he experienced probably for years prior to the hip replacement surgery that he continued to walk with a limp months after the surgery even though he felt no pain. Walking with a limp had become so natural to him that he did not even realize that he didn’t need to anymore.

So often, things that we experience; the way we think or the way we act is because we too have to retrain our brains. You may have experienced so much pain in your life; abuse, broken relationships etc. that you continue to subconsciously feel the pain long after the abuse or broken relationship has ended. This hinders progress in life. Many people put up a wall; they are afraid to get close to anyone or pursue another relationship because they feel as if they will be hurt again, they expect pain. To experience a brighter more fulfilling future, you must retrain your brain.

How can you retrain your brain? The Bible says, “As a man thinketh so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) So if you think of yourself as being poor, broken, less than, etc. then you are. We must therefore retrain our brains to think positive thoughts about ourselves. The more we practice this, we will begin to act the way we perceive ourselves to be and it will eventually become a reality.
In an online article, Retrain Your Brain: How To Reverse Negative Thinking, Emily Holland makes the following suggestions:

1. Practice Mindfulness
In order to adopt more positive thinking patterns, you must first become aware of your current ways of thinking. By cultivating mindfulness, you can acknowledge and identify the thinking patterns that have become habitual, then decide whether or not to engage them. Mindfulness creates a distance between yourself and your thoughts, allowing you to view yourself as separate from them. Incorporate mindfulness into your morning or evening routine, sitting quietly for a few minutes. When a negative thought arises, instead of attaching yourself to it, simply redirect your focus on something positive.

2. Address Your Inner Critic
Your inner critic loves convincing you of things that simply aren’t true, often making you feel pretty lousy about yourself. Think of this voice as someone separate from you. Challenge the lies it tries to feed you. Ask yourself: Is that really true? Is there evidence to back up that claim?”
The choice is yours whether you believe the voices of your inner critic or not.

3. Know Your Triggers
Certain people, situations, and circumstances may set into motion a seemingly endless stream of negative thoughts so it’s important to be aware of them. Perhaps encounters with your boss or making important life decisions causes you to become overly critical of yourself or to question your self-worth. When you’re aware of your triggers, you can prepare yourself and feel more in control of your thoughts versus falling back into old negative thinking patterns.

4. Write it Out
Putting feelings down onto paper is a great way to not only unload your thoughts but to also learn more about the nature of them. Oftentimes, you aren’t aware of how negative your thoughts are. Negative thinking patterns become habitual over time, typically without your even noticing. By writing them down, you can more easily identify the areas that require your attention.

5. Recite a Mantra
Reciting a mantra or positive affirmation is a great way to pull yourself out from under the negative thoughts and into the present moment. It can be recited when you feel negativity creeping in or multiple times throughout the day in order to get into the habit of focusing on them.
You can choose any word or phrase that will help bring you into the present and remind you to focus more on the positive. Examples:
• I am smart
• I am good enough
• I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13)

6. Change Your Surroundings
Sometimes your thoughts can seem so loud that the best thing to do is to change your physical surroundings. Take a walk in nature, go for a run, or meet up with a friend. The point is to engage in something other than the negative cycle so that you can come back to the problem later when you’re in a clearer headspace. Choose an activity or location that you find enjoyable and you know will leave you feeling better. If you need the company of others, be sure to surround yourself with people who will encourage your positive thinking.

Negative thinking, especially when they’ve become a habit, can be hard to break. The negative thoughts you’ve had for years won’t go away overnight you must be patient with yourself. In practicing the above suggestions from Ms. Holland, it takes ongoing practice, repeatedly doing them until you eventually retrain your brain.
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