Words Can Change Your Brain

We tend to inflict so much suffering upon ourselves through negative self talk.  It’s really amazing when you think about it.  So much suffering due to words running through our minds…

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can change your brain.  That’s right!

According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, words can literally change your brain.  In their book, “Words Can Change Your Brain”, they write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”

Positive words, such as “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning.  They propel the motivational centers of the brain into action, according to the authors, and build resiliency.

Conversely, hostile language can disrupt specific genes that play a key part in the production of neurochemicals that protect us from stress. Humans are hardwired to worry – part of our primal brains protecting us from threats to our survival – so our thoughts naturally go here first.

However, a single negative word can increase the activity in our amygdala (the fear center of the brain).  This releases dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters, which in turn interrupts our brains’ functioning (this is especially with regard to logic, reason, and language.) “Angry words send alarm messages through the brain, and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centers located in the frontal lobes,” write Newberg and Waldman.

According to the authors, using the right words can transform our reality:

By holding a positive and optimistic WORD in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity.  This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain.  Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with.  A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt.  Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr King hits the nail on the head here, our society has become so driven by fitting in rather than standing out because they follow the opinions of others instead of finding their own truth!

Do you keep attracting the same people and situations into your life even though you know you want something different?  Do you find yourself asking, “Why does this always happen to me?”

That is because our actions spring directly from our conscious and unconscious thoughts and beliefs.  When these thoughts and beliefs come from other people, in a sense those people are in control of our actions. Think of a child whose parents are certain that he is a loser. They offer up “proof” and “evidence.”  Unless that child begins to think and question that so-called proof, odds are that his actions will conform to the thoughts his parents instilled.

The same dynamic happens in other relationships, with partners, friends, political leaders, financial experts, TV newscasters, or spiritual mentors.  If we simply swallow what they say without questioning or analyzing, we become their robots, acting according to their conclusions and goals, not really our own.

The great inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, solution-finders and leaders of all sorts do not think like everyone else. They explore new territory. They try on thoughts that seem outrageous and impossible. Even when their line of thinking runs into a dead end, they discover something new along the way.

You may not aspire to be a trailblazer for humanity, but what about being a trailblazer in your own life? If you don’t allow yourself to think differently than the majority, odds are you’ll end in the life that majority has. If this is what you want, great!  But if you crave a more expansive and fulfilling life, you need to start generating different thoughts to create a different outcome.

For a second let’s talk about – Prejudices, because like all limiting beliefs, prejudices can be tricky. They seem so true and valid. Through the filter in place, we see “proof” validating our prejudices everywhere we look. Prejudices seem to make life easy because we don’t have to stop and investigate or explore what’s in front of us. When we do start probing into our prejudices, it’s uncomfortable. But if we leave our prejudices locked in place, we limit ourselves, constrict our growth and limit our possibilities.

To me, prejudices are moldy, stagnant thoughts that we picked up somewhere along the way, stuck in our pockets, and never really looked into. Conscious or unconscious, prejudices become the filters through which we experience life.  At best, they narrow or even close our minds to other points of view.  At worst, they make us feel constantly defensive, irritated or even angry.  As William James points out, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

Every pattern that doesn’t serve you exists in one place – your subconscious mind.  Your mind determines your experience of reality.  Limiting beliefs and reactive energy patterns stored in your subconscious need to be re-programmed to achieve your true potential.

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