Have you ever tried to get into somebody’s head? Well, don’t! It might look nasty in there, in particular if that person has negative or toxic thoughts. Did you know that thought patterns have a structure that look like trees in our brain? Thoughts cling to neurons, but when negative thoughts are formed and become part of our subconscious mind, the neuronal path looks like a dried out old prune, or like a dark, withered tree.
When I saw the literal image of the neurophysiological structure of a thought, and in particular of a toxic one, I was pretty shocked. No wonder I sometimes feel like a dried out old prune(click here to view image)! And let’s face it, we all have toxic thoughts and are so often confronted with our ‘stinking thinking’ – our negative internal self-talk and convictions.
Here’s the good news though: You can detox your brain and build new healthy neuronal structures by systematically tearing down unhealthy thought patterns and building up healthy thoughts! We actually have the power to change the physical structure of our brain, and as such, we can change our mental and physical condition by changing the way we think.
However, whenever motivational speakers started talking about ‘mindset’, changing your thought life, or renewing your mind, my hair would stand on end, because they’d always address the problem and tell you what needed to be changed – but not how it could be changed.
I’m going to share two approaches I have found really helpful in changing my thought patterns and systematically breaking down negative, toxic thinking. Today’s blog will focus on the first approach, which you can start applying right away. In my next blog I will share the second approach, which will focus on getting the deeply hidden subconscious convictions that inhibit our progress in life to the surface. Before I get to the first approach though, I will explain briefly where our thoughts come from and why they are so pivotal in determining the way our life.
3000 + Thoughts per Hour
Neuroscientists estimate that we have 50,0000 – 70,0000 thoughts per day, which comes down to 40-50 thoughts per minute. However, we are only aware of a fraction of these thoughts in our conscious minds. The majority of thoughts, feelings, and convictions are stored in our subconscious minds. And guess what: the decisions we make in daily life are based on thoughts and feelings that are activated in our subconscious minds.
Only about 3 to 5 percent of our processing powers come from the conscious mind. The rest of it comes from our deeply ingrained beliefs in our subconscious mind. And here is the dilemma: If you try to change your thoughts with positive thinking techniques and only focus on a cognitive level only, you will not experience real change – because consciously you might be thinking something new, but subconsciously your paradigm is still controlling your results!
The Brain Detox
One approach to deal with our deeply ingrained (negative) convictions, thoughts, and paradigms is the Brain Detox model by Dr. Caroline Leaf. What you do is this: Take a negative thought (for instance: I’m not good enough, If only…. I wish I had…), write it in the middle of an A4 paper and circle it in. Then create a mind-map around it: what feelings are associated with that thought? What memories come up? What other thoughts are related? What words come to mind?
Mind-mapping is a very effective tool for generating intense and focused thought processes. What I like about this mind-mapping approach is that it helps to actually get a whole thought pattern related to one thought on paper and you see what your thought looks like – and the structure looks like a tree with multiple branches of different associations, convictions, experiences and memories.
Second, it brings subconscious internal thoughts and conversations to the conscious mind. Sometimes you might just be experiencing a nagging negative feeling and you don’t know what is the real issue. Sit down and try to identify the feeling, pinpoint it as precisely as possible. It might be anger, fear, anxiety, worry – you name it. Put this in the middle of a piece of paper and branch out related thoughts, beliefs, memories, and feelings that are attached to that thought. This will take some effort and time, but while doing this you are already in the process of detoxing your brain.
When I did this with some of my own prevailing negative thoughts, feelings, and convictions, it was quite eye-opening. No wonder I felt so exhausted and at times like a dried out old prune if this is what is all going on in my subconscious brain – and all these feelings, memories, convictions and thoughts are attached to just this one initial ‘thought’.
Once you have mind-mapped and journaled out one specific thought pattern, take a break and then look at it again to identify common threads. The goal is to identify the lies in the thought pattern that you put on paper. Well, the next question is how can you can know what is a lie and what is the truth about this thought, because obviously lie that has been stored in your subconscious mind will feel true to you. Here is where what I do and what this approach suggests: take time to meditate and pray and ask God what the truth is about this thought pattern.
Integration vs Dissociation
The important part is that the truth needs to penetrate your heart = the mind, will and emotions – and not just to the intellect. Proverbs 16 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” Thoughts usually penetrate the heart when God speaks a word, impression, picture, or Scripture right to your heart. You have to know as well as feel the truth in you heart – not just try make declarations with your intellect.
You can only change the way you think and renew your mind in an integrated process, where your thoughts, feelings and convictions become one. Then declaring the truth becomes powerful and we can say to a mountain ‘ be moved and be cast into the sea’ and it shall be done. That’s when we speak and declare truth with authenticity and with authority, and that’s when our negative thought patterns are broken down and new, healthy ones are built up.
Many approaches focus on the mere cognitive level, emphasizing that you cannot be ruled by your emotions. While there is truth in it, an overemphasis on the mind vs. the emotions and making positive declarations has led to a dissociated mumbo-jumbo, which doesn’t bring lasting change to the heart. Positive declarations alone do not reach the thoughts, which are active in our subconscious mind and determine our decisions, behavior, and results.
Once you’ve identified the lies and countered that with truth, you need to look at this mind-map every day and oppose the lies with the truth you have received up to seven times a day. Within 21 days, the negative thought pattern is broken down and you will experience tangible change in that area of thinking. The main focus needs to be on the positive truths within these 21 days. Depending on how deeply ingrained the particular thought has been, another 21 days might be necessary to totally erase the negative thought. Another 21 days should focus in building up the positive, affirming, truthful thought pattern.
If you you would like more information or guidance in dealing with you can get Dr. Caroline Leaf’s 21 Brain Detox Program on an app. If you need would like more assistance in dealing with a particular area that has been inhibited by negative thoughts you can book a free consultation with me here.
I hope you find this information helpful and that you are going to tackle one of your negative thoughts by trying this approach. I’d love to hear your comments, experiences and thoughts!