Is it possible to change a chronic, compulsive, negative or limiting thought? Even if it’s been a pattern for years? Even if the negative belief appears to be absolutely true?
Yes, absolutely! And there is a scientifically proven reason why.
To sum it up in one word - neuroplasticity. Survival would be the second. Our brains are built to be quite malleable. We are able to form new neural pathways responsible for communicating thought and invoking responses from one part of our brain to another. We're also built to be able to learn and unlearn ways of thinking, feeling and behaving quickly to help us survive.
When we think a thought, there is a physical process that happens in our brain.
Neurons, the cells that transmit nerve impulses in our brains, fire off through synapses, the points at which the nerve impulses pass between, and are absorbed by other brain cells along with chemicals, called neurotransmitters. When you hear or speak words, your mind fires off neurons and synapses so that you understand what is being heard or said.
Brain scans show that patterns will form when the same words are spoken or heard repeatedly, meaning the same neurons and synapses are more and more likely to fire off together. You may have heard the term coined by Canadian Psychologist Donald Webb, “The neurons and synapses that fire together wire together.” When neurons travel the same pathway in the brain over and over they begin to transmit faster and faster. They become automatic with enough repetition. It’s the same reason we would repeat a word over and over to teach a baby to speak, or swing at a golf ball over and over until our swing becomes automatic.
Negative thought processes follow this same pattern–the more we think about, or ruminate, on a negative thought, the more rooted the thought becomes in our mind. The process ends up pulling more neural pathways together, like a magnet, solidifying them to become stronger each time. This is one reason why thoughts that stem from trauma, as well as negative and anxious thoughts, can seemingly loop – keep popping up or replaying again and again, until you consciously do something to stop them. All the while, these negative thoughts can stir up emotional and physiological reactions resulting in an overall decrease in well-being, negatively affecting our gut health for example. This is why obsessive, compulsive, depressing, and panicky thoughts can become habitual enough to create the symptoms of a mental health disorder.
There are many different approaches within therapy and self development to stopping this process and turn the brain's attention to more positive thoughts. Hypnotherapy, for instance, uses the power of suggestion and guided imagery. You become naturally immersed into a state of greater focus and relaxation while invoking your imagination, emotions, and logic. This helps you get a new perspective and form a new belief. Intended responses are elicited within you by engaging your senses, emotions and subconscious mind through the skilled use of detailed, descriptive language.
A hypnotherapist and Neuro Linguistic Programming practitioner can help you change a thought pattern or belief in as little as one session. These therapies are also known for being especially helpful in the areas of stress management, healing promotion, pain control, performance improvement, overcoming fears and habit change.
Some examples of self development practices to change or create beliefs include:
Affirmations - they use your consistent daily vocal recitation of positively worded statements to create strong neural pathways and therefore a new belief. This practice can work effectively when your statement meets certain criteria and you keep up with the practice consistently (for at least 30 days). You must also dedicate yourself to repeating it with a strong sense of certainty and in the best emotional and physical state possible. Ideally, you would combine this practice with interrogative self talk (asking useful questions), power posing (positive body language), and other actions over the course of 60 - 90 days for significant and long term results.
Meditation - can help you disengage from negative thoughts and their accompanied feelings. Some practices involve developing the habit of becoming an indifferent observer, or a compassionate observer of your thoughts. You do this while focusing on returning your attention to your breath, a symbol or image that you picture in your mind’s eye, or repeating a mantra you can say or think.
Self Hypnosis - is a practice of focusing on positive suggestions by listening to your own prerecorded script, or on a professional recording. It has similar benefits to meditation and can also achieve more specialized goals, along with the use of additional methods like guided visualization, such as developing the ability for natural pain relief or in the case of changing bad habits into healthier ones.
Each of these kinds of modalities may achieve different results depending on the issue(s) you are presenting, how effectively, consistently and for what duration you use a process. These factors can all have an impact on how well you can respond to any method of practice. Point being, there is a lot that can be done to stop distressing thoughts and their resulting behaviors. And there is a lot of science behind the reasons why we can believe, remember and focus on some things more easily than others as well as why some thoughts are harder to change than others.
Yep, thoughts and beliefs are pretty important. Take it from me. One thought I used to believe almost took my life.
My TEDx talk, The Life Changing Power of Words, shares the story of how a single thought I had after the traumatic event of my sister's death back in 2005, eventually eroded my health after only a few years of it affecting my thinking. The negative beliefs I developed caused me to suffer from suicidal depression, PTSD, and Functional Neurological Disorder.
I also testify about the impact a single hypnotherapy session made to break that way of thinking and replace it with an idea that gave me a greater sense of peace and purpose which immediately improved my health. That's why I became a hypnotherapist, NLP practitioner, and brain health coach. It's also why I created the Connection To Purpose e-course...so I can help people like you get life changing results through natural ways of changing your mind. My e-course will walk you through powerful exercises to change your beliefs and thought patterns, step by step.
If you have a belief or thought pattern you’d like help to change as quickly as possible, consider reaching out to a hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner in your local area. Working with one virtually is another option. My practice is not only able to help clients in the greater Seattle and Tacoma area of Washington state, I also work with clients over the phone and video chat sessions just as effectively in most cases once we’ve had a consultation to determine if it’s best.If you’re interested to see whether hypnosis can help you achieve your goals while respecting your own worldview and most deeply held beliefs, be sure to review my Hypnotherapy FAQ and have a thorough consult with a hypnotherapist like me before making a decision as to whether hypnotherapy services are best for you.