In this replay of my interview with best-selling author and wellness teacher Kimberley Snyder on her amazing podcast Feel Good, we talk all things mind and brain, including how we have the power to write and redefine our own life stories through self-regulation and mind management!
2:25 It is possible to change painful memories!
Although we can’t change what has happened to us, what can change how what happened to us plays out within us, and within our lives.
We can do this through directed mind management or self-regulation. As I discuss in my book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and app Neurocycle, the mind and brain are neuroplastic, which means they can change. We can never erase what has happened to us, as much as we may want to—it is part of our story. But we can redefine the role something plays in our life through changing our thinking, feeling and choosing (our mind-in-action).
We can never rid ourselves of all pain or suffering. However, we can learn how to reconceptualize what has happened to us, which is to view a memory from a new perspective so we no longer feel overwhelmed or trapped when we think about something that previously caused us emotional distress.
6:45 The difference between the mind & brain
Everything we do begins with a thought. If we want to change anything in our lives, we first have to change our thinking, our mind—the powerful “aliveness” we all have. When we know how to change our mind, we rewire neural networks in the brain that create useful, sustainable, and automatized actions and attitudes—good habits that make us happier and healthier. We get from good advice to a good life with our mind—hence the term mind-management.
How we react or respond to various life situations and the world around us is called mind-in-action. The mind-in-action is how you uniquely think, feel, and choose. The mind is separate from the brain. It changes the way our brain functions, our biochemistry, and the genes associated with mental and physical health—this is called the mind-brain-body connection (or psychoneurobiology).
The mind is energy, and it generates energy through thinking, feeling, and choosing. That means we generate energy through our mind-in-action 24/7, which is part of the activity we pick up with brain technology. When we generate this mind energy through thinking, feeling, and choosing, we build thoughts, which are physical structures in our brain. This building of thoughts is called neuroplasticity.
The brain is an extremely complex neuroplastic responder. This essentially means that each time it’s stimulated by our mind, it responds in many ways, including neurochemical, genetic, and electromagnetic changes. This, in turn, grows and changes structures in the brain, building or wiring in new physical thoughts. The brain is never the same because it changes with every experience we have, every moment of every day.
13:30, 17:50 The difference between thoughts & memories
We experience events and circumstances all the time—this is what it means to be immersed in life. We respond and react to events all day long and sort them into experiences while we sleep. This “mind-in-action” makes a product: a thought. A thought is a real physical thing made of proteins and chemicals that occupies mental real estate in the brain as a tree-like structure on our neurons and as gravitational fields in the mind, as well as in DNA in the body.
These thoughts look like trees, and like a tree, are made of roots and branches. These are our memories—the “root” and “branch” memories. The thought itself is the concept, or the big idea. Inside the thought are the embedded memories. There can be any number of memories, thousands even, in one thought, just as there are hundreds or even thousands of branches and roots on a tree.
What all this means is that a thought tree is literally built into the brain as you use your mind in response to your experiences, or in other words, as you think, feel and choose in response to life. We as humans literally have trillions of thoughts, and how we build them and use them to function is what we talk about as memory or thought formation. For example, the thought could be “I am concerned about a family member”. There will be hundreds or perhaps thousands of memories related to this thought. The thought is the big picture, and the details of the thought are the memories.
New thoughts are formed over twenty-one days, and these new thoughts are formed into habits after sixty-three days. This means it takes time to learn and form new habits that will impact how we function. We have to do something more than just read or listen to something once or twice or just work on an issue for a few days for real, sustainable, long-term change.
19:00 How our thoughts impact our body
As mentioned above, a thought is made up of individual memories, much like the photos in your phone or computer; the thought is the event and the memories are all the photos making up the event. So, the events in our environment—everything we are exposed to—are neurally encoded into our brains and bodies because of the mind-brain-body relationship (psychoneurobiology). The more exposure we have to whatever is going on in our lives, the stronger the encoding becomes and the more power and energy the resultant thought (or encoded neural network) gets. What this essentially means is that whatever we think about the most grows. Thoughts are the drivers behind how we think, feel and choose, which, in turn, generates what we say and do, and how we see life.
How does this work? The experiences we have are wired into the brain by the mind. Subsequently, the brain sends signals to all the cells of the body that there is a change in the mind and brain, and in the case of a negative experience, that the change is a threat to our survival. This generates an immune system response, and the entire body reacts, including the release of cortisol, homocysteine, prolactin, as well as a biological impact on our telomeres and a change in brainwaves. These responses are communicated back to us through our emotions (anxiety), body (heart palpitations, stomach aches and so on), behaviors (such as panic attacks, withdrawal, or hasty decisions), and perspective, which is a warning signal that is letting us know that this imbalance is a potential threat to our survival, and that there is a need to restore balance in the brain and body.
21:00, 31:20 How we can harness our inner wisdom using mind management
The nonconscious mind is the swirling, high-energy powerhouse that works 24/7, where all our memories are stored. It’s the source of our inner wisdom and intelligence. It involves a dynamic, self-regulated process that is the potent and effectual driving force behind our communication and behavior. It’s always online working with the conscious when the conscious mind is awake. It’s in constant conversation with the subconscious mind, working to bring balance and clean up our mental mess.
Indeed, the nonconscious mind is often seen as our most “spiritual” level—the most extensive and influential part of the mind. It’s very attuned to keeping us mentally and physically healthy, so as soon as we have toxic thoughts, which come with a lot of toxic energy attached to them that upsets the equilibrium in the nonconscious mind, it will send us warning signals such as depression, anxiety, or a nagging sense that something is wrong.
Mind management as a lifestyle helps us better tune into our mind, brain and body, and pick up on the signals coming from our nonconscious mind—it helps us tune into our inner wisdom. The more we practice mind management, the more we learn how to respond to our experiences in a way that builds healthy neural networks rather than simply reacting and building toxic neural networks that impact our wellbeing.
40:00, 51:00, 1:09:40 Changing our minds & lives through self-regulation
The easiest way to understand the whole process of mind management is to imagine a thought tree. Look at it from the branches to the tree trunk to the roots. The first thing you need to do is gather awareness of the branches and leaves, which are your behaviors and their attached emotions. Then you need to focus on the whole tree to try to make some sense of it—the branches, trunk, and roots, or the detail of your behaviors and emotions, what perspective they bring, and where they come from. This is a very revealing process—you are bringing the memories of the thoughts out into the open and into your conscious mind so that you can work on pruning and grafting the leaves and branches based on your process of self-awareness and self-discovery. This, in turn, will help you work towards stabilizing and consolidating the growing branches and leaves, much like those posts that are often tied to a tree or part of a tree to help it grow. Then you should allow the new branches to settle a little before you do more work on them to change the way this thought plays out in your life on a long-term basis.
To help people practice this kind of self-regulation, I have developed a mind management system that I have researched and clinically applied over the past 30 years called the Neurocycle. It’s a mind-directed neuroplasticity process that helps identify the signals of burnout, trauma and anxiety, track these to the thought with its mindset (the experience) that is behind these signals, and find the root cause. This, in turn destabilizes the neural network code that caused the signal so that you can deconstruct and reconstruct it through reconceptualization into a healthier way of functioning in 63 day cycles (which I discuss in detail in my latest book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, and walk you through daily in my app Neurocycle).
When thoughts are activated and pushed into the conscious mind, they enter a labile state—meaning they can be altered. When a memory is in this plastic state, it can be modified, toned down, or reconceptualized, which is why awareness is the first step to change, and the first step in the Neurocycle mind management process. The other steps are: reflect and write, which help you process the issue you are working on, and recheck and active reach, which help you reconceptualize the issue and how it plays out in your mind and life.
For more on mind management and mental health, listen to this podcast I did with Kimberly Snyder (episode #372).
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