Norman Doidge, Canadian-born psychiatrist and author of The Brain That Changes Itself said: “Thought changes structure … I saw people rewire their brains with their thoughts, to cure previously incurable obsessions and trauma.”
The power of the human brain is literally limitless, and the huge development in the spheres of brain imaging and neuroscience in the last decades has shown that the brain can be re-engineered – and we can all do it.
Neuroplasticity is the lasting change to the brain throughout life. It indicates that we can:
Boost our intelligence
Become more emotionally intelligent
Learn new skills
“Unlearn” harmful habits behaviors, and beliefs
Recover from certain brain damage types
Donald Hebb, an early pioneer of neuroplasticity and neuropsychology, famously said: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Dr. Michael Merzenich, now recognized as the most renowned neuroscientist in the world, proved the relationship between our thoughts (“neurons that fire”) and structural brain changes (“wire together.”)
He also discovered that:
“Your experiences, behaviors, thinking, habits, thought patterns, and ways of reacting to world are inseparable from how your brain wires itself.”
“Negative habits change your brain for the worse. Positive habits change your brain for the better.”
According to Alex Korb, Ph.D., and author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time:
“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision making, and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”
Negative behaviors, like complaining, have devastating effects on the structure of the brain. We all complain from time to time, but constant complainers do not keep their negative thoughts to themselves but search for some unwilling participant and vent.
They can be divided into three groups:
Attention-seeking Complainers: These people use complaining as a way to get the attention they need, claiming that their lives are much worse than everyone else’s.
Chronic Complainers: These people live in a constant state of a complaint, and even when they do not complain loudly, they think about it. This often causes anxiety and depression.
Low-E.Q. Complainers: ‘E.Q.’ stands for emotional quotient, and people within this group are short on it. They are not interested in your feelings, thoughts, and perspectives at all and vent at every opportunity.
However, these people do not want to feel this way. If complaining is allowed to loop within the brain continually, it will change the person’s beliefs and behaviors.
Our brain possesses the negativity bias, which is a tendency to focus more on negative circumstances than positive. In the words of Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist, and author of Buddha’s Brain:
“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.”
Therefore, if we repeatedly focus on negative thoughts, we will fire and re-fire the neurons responsible for the negativity bias, and thus alter our behavior.
Annie Wood, a Hollywood actress, writer, optimistic realist, and an enthusiasm enthusiast, wrote:
“Throughout our lives, we are wiring our brains, based on our repetitive thinking. We get good at what we practice. If we worry, creating more unease and anxiety, we become stellar worriers since our brain is responding, making it easier for us to worry each time we do it, thus creating our default mode living.
Default mode living is our habitual way of going about our lives. It’s our reacting minds as opposed to our responding minds. Our reacting minds are often knee-jerk reactions to something.
We often say or do things that we’ve said and done in the past, as if we were in that default mode living, on automatic pilot. But our responding minds come into play when we give ourselves a pause before responding to a situation.”
It is not possible to be extremely happy all the time, and there is no need to, but everyone should take steps to fight negative thoughts and combat negativity. Studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness are the most powerful tools we can use.
Research has repeatedly shown that meditation and mindfulness are perhaps the most powerful tools for combating negativity. A 15-minute meditation daily can do wonders on your life, and your brain.
Daily meditation has been shown to lead to positive emotions, as it teaches people to easily find a purpose in life, and treat all kinds of illnesses and health issues.
In addition, Bodhipaksa, a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and a published author advises:
“ See if you can become more aware of your complaining. The point is not to notice how often other people complain! (Strangely, this is often an early response to practicing ethics.) Nor is the point to give yourself a hard time when you catch yourself in the middle of a rant.
When you do notice that you’ve been complaining, or are about to complain, just take a breath and let go. Maybe you’ll think of something skillful to say, maybe not. But each time you do this at least you’ll be taking a small but important step toward living with joy and appreciation.”