An Introduction to the Neuroscience Behind Creating Your Reality

Author Article

Have you ever wondered why two people can share the exact same situation, yet experience it differently?

Neural pathways are often described as a type of super-highway of nerve cells, the function of which is to transmit messages. Much like a walking track in the bush, the more you walk over it, the more trodden and clear it becomes. The same thing happens when we engage in behaviors such as thinking certain thoughts with a high degree of regularity.

You see the brain consumes between 20-30% of the caloric burn in our body at rest. It uses so much energy because it’s so complex and so it has needed to evolve and adapt in order to automate various processes as a way of conserving energy. This is why and how regular behaviors become habits (or things we seemingly do without a great deal of conscious thought).

Think about something simple like brushing your teeth. You can brush them just fine, no problem but what if I asked you to use your non-dominant hand to do that instead? You’d suddenly have to think about the action of your arm and the motion of your wrist or hand. It would be hard at first because it’s unfamiliar, but if you persevered with it, over time, it would become easier as the task became more familiar. This is an example of neuroplasticity and can be thought of as “re-wiring your brain.”

So now you know in general terms how neural pathways work and their function, we can proceed to look at beliefs. Perhaps you are familiar with the famous metaphor of the iceberg where the tip represents conscious thought and everything below the water line represents subconscious thought. The subconscious mind holds our beliefs, many of which we acquired as we were growing up. The function of a belief is in part to help us make sense of the world around us. It creates a filter for our brain to receive, store, interpret and recall information picked up from the world around us by our senses and it automates the way our brain processes information.

In order for a thought (which occurs in the conscious mind) to become a belief, it must be repeated. It’s this repetition that allows a neural pathway to be created. Here’s an example. Let’s imagine that growing up, you heard your parents say things like “you have to work hard to get ahead.” You heard it a lot. Now imagine that you too now hold the belief (without realizing it) that you have to work hard in order to make money. So you work long hours nearly every day. It affects your marriage, you stop seeing your friends due to your work commitments, and you stop going to the gym. You don’t sleep well at night and you are often irritable or grumpy because you feel pressured to make the money.

If you hold a belief that “you have to work hard to make money”, then that is what will show up in your reality. Your mind will filter out all of the information that it thinks is unimportant and will only bring you the information you’ve told it is important with your belief. So that’s all you see when, in fact, the reality might be very different.

Sometimes beliefs are healthy and other times, they work against us. The good news is that there is a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System or the RAS and part of its role is to actively seek out the information that you tell it to. So, if you want to change a belief the RAS can be your greatest asset! The RAS transmits information between the conscious and subconscious minds and the other beautiful thing about it is that it doesn’t question you at all. Whatever you tell it, it will believe because it does not distinguish between fact and fiction. It simply obeys commands from your conscious mind.

But changing a belief takes time and consistent practice. There are many ways to help your subconscious mind adopt new thinking styles though and these include things like visualization, using your imagination, meditating, acting as-if, using journal prompts to uncover beliefs and develop healthier alternatives, using affirmations (they work on repetition and hence create new neural pathways) and through the use of story.

Hypnosis is another effective way of speeding up the process of changing beliefs because it goes almost directly to the subconscious. It can be more efficient than some other approaches but as with all interventions, is not without its limitations so won’t work for everyone.

One very effective tool that you can use to change a belief is listening to audio narrative such a meditation recording or an affirmation recording. This works best in the last five minutes before you go to sleep and in the first five minutes upon waking because that is when the subconscious mind is most receptive to information. You can prime your brain to develop the neural pathways that you prefer to have by doing things like listening to audio at these times.

When you change your beliefs by redirecting your conscious thought, you can change your belief (filter) and when you change your filter, you change your experience of the world around you, otherwise referred to as your reality. If you are consistent with your practice, you will be begin to see things differently in no time.

How would you prefer to feel today?

References

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive Psychology (Third ed., pp. 24-76). N.p.: Linda Schreiber-Ganster.

Liou, S. (2010, June 26). Neuroplasticity. In web.stanford.edu. Retrieved February 6, 2019, from http://web.stanford.edu/group/hopes/cgi-bin/hopes_test/neuroplasticity/

Martindale, C. (1991). Cognitive psychology: A neural-network approach. Belmont, CA, US: Thomson Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.

Neurons, . (2013, May 6). Neurons. In http://www.biology-pages.info. Retrieved February 6, 2019, from http://www.biology-pages.info/N/Neurons.html

Tassell, D. V. (2004). Neural Pathway Development. In http://www.brains.org. Retrieved February 6, 2019, from http://www.brains.org

Walker, A. (2014, July 1). How Your Thought Pathways Affect Your Life. In http://www.drwalker.com. Retrieved February 6, 2019, from http://www.drawalker.com/blog/how-your-thought-pathways-create-your-life

Setting Realistic Goals Linked to Higher Level of Well-Being

Author Article

A new study shows that people who set realistic goals can hope for  better well-being.

The key for later satisfaction is whether the life goals are seen as attainable, according to psychologists at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

For the study, researchers used data from 973 people between the ages of 18 and 92 living in German-speaking parts of Switzerland. More than half of the participants were surveyed again after two and four years.

The participants were asked to assess on a four-point scale the importance and the perceived attainability of life goals in 10 areas: health, community, personal growth, social relationships, fame, image, wealth, family, and responsibility and care for younger generations.

The study’s findings revealed that perceiving one’s personal goals as attainable is an indicator for later cognitive and affective well-being.

This implies that people are most satisfied if they have a feeling of control and attainability, the researchers explained.

Life goals also hold predictive power for specific domains, according to the study’s findings. For example, participants who set social-relation goals or health goals were more satisfied with their social relationships or their own health.

The researchers also found that the link between life goals and subsequent well-being appeared to be independent of the age of the participants.

However, age did play a factor in what goals people valued.

The younger the participants were, the more they rated personal growth, status, work, and social-relation goals as important. The older the participants were, the more they rated social engagement and health as important, according to the study’s findings.

“Many of our results confirmed theoretical assumptions from developmental psychology,” said lead author Janina Bühler, a Ph.D. student. “If we examine, however, whether these goals contribute to well-being, age appears less relevant.”

The study was published in the European Journal of Personality.

I Have No Fucking Idea What I’m Doing And I’m Fine With That

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By Bethany Trundle

Honestly, I haven’t got a fucking clue. I think I’m supposed to be working my way up the ladder, that’s what they keep telling me. Not really sure what ladder this is or where it is, or how high it is, or what’s at the top of it. Nevertheless, here I am, awkwardly moving on up and trying to not look at how far there is to fall should I miss a step.

I’m trying to get somewhere… I think? That’s what they say. You have to keep moving to get where you want to be.

Ah yes, of course, I must move forward to achieve my dreams and find my Nirvana!

Now If only I had any idea what my dreams are, or in which direction I could go to find them. I haven’t got time to work it out though, gotta keep moving, I can’t afford to fall behind, I’ve got to get there, whatever there is, so I can claim my prize which I’m also not sure of.

I say it once again; I have no idea what I’m doing.

But wow, the pressure of always having to be moving in some direction or another.

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re going backward,” that’s what they say.

Well that’s just not fucking true, is it? I’m not getting younger, not taking on more responsibility hasn’t taken me back in time. Every hour I’m not learning new information I’m not also simultaneously losing IQ points. If you stop baking a cake halfway through, it doesn’t turn back into raw eggs, does it? Absolutely fucking not.

So, what are we doing?

I don’t know when it happened, or who started it but somewhere along the line someone decided that we needed a plan. So now, God forbid, if you have no resemblance of a plan for your life, you’re basically doomed. Yes, that’s right, doomed.

So what did we all do out of fear? The big fear of being forever doomed? Oh yes, we started pretending we have a plan or latching onto those superior to us who do seem to have a plan but actually they also don’t have a plan. We all march forward one by one in the pursuit of something or nothing, but as long as we are marching that means we are moving so that’s great. Where are we going? We don’t know. Why? We don’t know. We don’t know a lot.

Are you following me?

I would say, on the whole, I’m doing a really good job of pretending like I know what I’m doing. The problem is, I think we are all getting really good at pretending we know what we’re doing.

Imagine this – none of us know what we’re doing. You know why none of us know what we’re doing? Because none of us have ever done this before. We are all, for the lack of a better phrase, winging it.

Every single one of us is different. We value different things. We will inevitably all end up in completely different places, so why are we listening to anyone else about which path we should be taking and which goals we should be looking to achieve?

What is at the top of that ladder is completely dependent on you. It’s what you deem success to mean. It’s whatever fills you with happiness. It’s whatever makes you feel complete. What is at the top of that ladder is going to change over and over again. What made you happy at 10 or 20 or 25 isn’t going to be what makes you happy at 40.

Now imagine that you actually took time out of “moving on up” to work out which ladder it is that you actually want to climb. Taking time to understand yourself, where you are and where you want to be and finding the ladder that is right for you. As opposed to hearing everyone else’s preconceived ideas of what that ladder may look like and what you should be expecting when you reach the top.

Also, novel idea, but what if we actually tried to make our lives easier and took just a little bit of pressure off ourselves. What about if we spent some time taking in the scenery around us rather than planning the next move out of there, to our next destination. There is so much to be said for not having a plan, it allows you to explore yourself and your surroundings in a much more open-minded way rather than picking and choosing experiences because they mold into another step on that life plan ladder.

So no, I have no idea what I’m doing. It is quite the mystery. Some days that terrifies me but I’m learning quickly to be okay with it. You know how they say that the best night outs are the ones that you haven’t planned? That’s basically just a metaphor for life. The most amazing, life-affirming, downright mind-blowing things happen to you when you least expect it, no matter how much you’ve planned your life’s trajectory.

There will be moments, people, sunsets, sunrises, coincidences and extenuating circumstances that will re-shift your focus in quite unimaginable ways. So, it’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing because, quite honestly, everything could change in a second anyway.