This is a column I write for the Hudson Valley magazine "Healthy You".

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Positive on Purpose
November 17, 2015

I have known for decades that our thoughts affect our reality but I never found the gale force wind to blow me out of the boat of my negative and persistent patterns of thinking and behaving. I’ve used breath, affirmations, prayer, writing, exercises and countless other techniques to escape the traps set by my past and still I become that scared 10 year old over and over again.

Then I read My Stroke of Insight, by brain scientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, who shares  ways to train our brains to work for us instead of against us. She says we need to intentionally decide to train the brain to think in positive ways. After having a stroke at the age of 37 she was able to witness how certain stimuli would engage her mind.  She would watch how anger would stimulate an already existing neuronal loop to fire. A loop that the brain had been trained to run whenever anger was felt (which is why sometimes our reaction to feelings can be so out of proportion to what is truly happening.)  The brain releases different chemicals for each emotion and the loop lasts 90 seconds and after that time the body’s natural response to the stimuli is flushed out of the bloodstream.  So what that means to me is I have to hold my peace, keep my mouth shut and let the brain and body work as they were made to work.  No harm done.   No more letting my brain plug the experience into a rote pattern of response.  

You probably already know this.  I did too. It’s easy to think positive and be happy when things are going along smoothly (if they ever really are) but it’s a whole different story when life is squeezing the breath and hope right out of you.  And is another thing entirely when nothing all that big is happening but it feels just as bad as if it were everything bad that’s ever happened to you.  I am sick of my same old same olds and I want to invest some of the wisdom that comes with age into this marvelous new (for me) idea.   It seems like a different undertaking to actually train the brain, to spend ten minutes or so each day, to read over a custom made list of how I do want to respond to situations.

I will not live in fear.
I am difficult to offend.
I love people and I enjoy helping them.
There is no need to worry.
I live in the present and enjoy each moment.
I am disciplined and self-controlled.
I am content and emotionally stable.

I’m hopeful that taking charge of my attitude and taking time to choose who and how I am going to be in as many given moments as I can, will actually retrain my brain.  I’d rather not throw myself into a deep pit of despair when my buttons are pushed.  Interesting how the brain is the only organ in our body that isn’t fully formed at birth and takes 18 years to grow and most of the stuff I feel the sorriest about happened before I was 18.  

I know stuff is going to happen and it makes sense to decide beforehand to handle it with a positive attitude.  Once the seas get rough is not the best time to search for a plan of action, it is much easier to maintain a good attitude than to regain a good attitude.  If you are going through a difficult time now it probably isn’t your first and you survived the last one and chances are pretty good that you will survive this one.  Storms come and go.  Some are afternoon showers and others are tsunamis.  But through them all it is wiser to be still and hold our peace.  Storms take their toll on each of us and if it is at all possible do not make any major decisions until after the storm has passed and you’ve regained your balance.  Let your emotions subside before you decide.  


 
 
Copyright © Julie Evans