April 10, 2017

Retrain Your Brain

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:41 am by kellyfdennis

IMG_0208What good news! We now know that we can actually continue to grow, change and develop or brains throughout our lifespan. The human brain is very complex, but essentially the concept of retraining your brain is pretty simple. I love how Karen Koenig, author of many eating disorder self help books, describes it in The Rules of Normal Eating.  Imagine a pile of sand. On top of that pile is a marble, if you push the marble down the pile, it creates path. Now imagine picking the marble up and placing it back on top of the pile; the marble’s tendency will be to travel down the same path. If you repeat this process over and over, the path will become a rut. This is essentially what happens with the neural pathways in our brains. The “ruts” become habits, which become essentially automatic. Now, sometimes that’s a good thing. We don’t have to think about how to drive a car or brush our teeth after we’ve learned it. We just do it. However, some of these “ruts” are not helpful.

Some of these “ruts” are created very early on, all the way back to childhood. Many people get stuck in the thinking “rut” of “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not worthy of being treated well”, “I don’t deserve it” (whatever “it” is), “it’s too hard”, “I’m too old”, “I’m too much for people to handle.” You get the idea, maybe some of those statements are ones you hear in the inner dialogue inside your head. These thinking “ruts” can get in the way of our ability to make the changes we want to make to move forward in our lives.

We can change the “ruts”! One of the first ways to begin to change the “ruts” is to actually become aware that you’re stuck in a “rut”. What’s that area where you’ve been trying to make changes for years and nothing seems to work?  You might be stuck in a thinking “rut”. The second step is to accept where you are in your life and your journey in making changes. Instead of judging and fighting with yourself about where you are, change your inner dialogue to, “Ok, I’m here right now in my life. I’m (in whatever position you’re in: overweight, in an unhealthy relationship, in debt, having legal issues). But this is not the whole of who I am.”

The third step takes a little more time and energy than the last two. You have to “let go”. Let go of the judgment of yourself (and others), let go of the idea that you “shouldn’t” be in this predicament, let go of the struggle and fighting against yourself and change (I have some  YouTube videos to help you with this). The next step is a little more fun: Be curious. Begin to change the way your inner story goes. Instead of “I’m not good enough”, be curious about what would happen if you identified the things you do well. You can apply this to all the thinking “ruts”. Being curious, doesn’t mean change happens today, but what would it be like to think differently? What might change in my life just from thinking in a different way?

Mindfulness, guided imagery, and visualization, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy are all good tools to help you in your journey of getting out of the thinking “ruts” and making a change for the better!

Be Well and Have a Wonderful Day!

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ponderings on life, food, God, and love

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