Without knowing it you, me and everyone on the planet are constantly ‘softwiring’ our brains!
Scientists used to believe that we are born “hardwired” with the things that make you “who you are” already pre-coded into the many billions of brain cells that you’re born with. It was thought that there wasn’t much about your beliefs, personality, or behaviour traits that you could actually change.
However, in the past decade, ground-breaking research has revolutionized our understanding of the human brain and the latest research in neuroscience proves otherwise, the brain is in fact, “soft-wired” by experience, literally rewired, throughout your lifetime - Neuroplasticity illustrates this with the phrase: “Use it or lose it.”
When we use the synaptic connections in the brain that represent a skill, we strengthen them and when we let the skill lay dormant, we weaken those connections. It’s the same way that our muscles weaken if we stop exercising. The only muscles that get strong are the ones we use, just like our thoughts, behaviours, skills etc. The masters of their trade/craft are the ones who practice daily, they are soft wiring their brain for mastery!
How to CONSCIOUSLY start the soft wiring so that we create sustainable change?
Most people focus on what it is they dislike or don’t want any more, in the following exercise choose a strong memory of what you want to increase or have more of in your life. You will over time strengthen the positive memory and the feelings of this, but please don’t expect to do this once and 'Hey presto! everything changes. Similarly to creating mastery you will need to practice this exercise every day to increase its strength. As you do this stop thinking about the negative outcome you wish to change, this will weaken the negative neurological connections.
A - Pick any positive memory and relive it as if it were happening for the first time.
B - Now increase the positive feelings (as though you had a volume dial on your pleasure centre in your brain). Lose yourself in the pleasure and see if you can amplify it for 60 seconds or longer. You can even stroke your arms and hands in the most pleasurable way possible and this will deepen the positive elements of this
When you MINDFULLY increase your awareness of the act of savouring and its pleasure, you stimulate a circuit in your brain that gives you more self confidence in achieving specific goals.
Savoring the experience means that you fully immerse yourself in the pleasant memory, accentuating it and like mindfulness this enhances the functioning of your brain in ways that increase happiness and life-satisfaction.
The research shows that you need to create the habit of regularly savoring different aspects of your life – the food you eat, the gratitude you feel, the friends you have, if you want to develop stronger emotional resilience.
However, by default your brain is in constant flux, chasing after the moment that has just past, trying to understand it, control it, and attach meaning to it. Here the practice of mindfulness (Also an NLP technique) gives you a new strategy to use that has become one of the most effective ways to deal with negative feelings and thoughts, observing them without judgment. Dispassionately watch them in a disocciated way as if they are scenes on a giant movie screen, with you sitting in the audience, just taking notes about what you are observing! (If you struggle with this make the movie black and white NOT in colour)
Seems weird huh? But this “dampens” the experience of any emotional state that you are having. Neuroimaging studies show that this changes the functioning of your brain, allowing you to experience greater serenity, confidence, and optimism.
So, start consciously ‘softwiring’ your brain now with what you do want rather than letting your brain softwire you with what you dont want!
Being present and enjoying it: Dispositional mindfulness and savoring the moment are distinct, interactive predictors of positive emotions and psychological health. Kiken LG, Lundberg KB, Fredrickson BL. Mindfulness (N Y). 2017 Oct;8(5):1280-1290.
Appreciating life in the midst of adversity: Savoring in relation to mindfulness, reappraisal, and meaning. Bryant FB, Smith JL. Psychological Inquiry. 2015;26:315–321.
John Asaraf and Mark Waldman