The brain is an amazing three-pound organ that controls all functions of the body, interprets information from the outside world, and embodies the essence of the mind and soul. Intelligence, creativity, emotion, and memory are a few of the many things governed by the brain.
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.”
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 habits change your brain for the worse. Positive habits change your brain for the better. It’s simple yet hard to control.
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.
Our brain possesses the negativity partiality, 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.”
Hence, 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.”
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.
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.”