Rewiring the Brain for Positivity

Those who discourage your dreams have likely abandoned their own! A compassionate perspective to help us understand why we are discouraged. As a young person many of the people I looked up to were in a very negative place in their lives, as a result it was spread to me. I heard a lot of negative messages that crushed my dreams and left me often feeling helpless, hopeless, and depressed. These experiences held onto me for most of my 20’s and into my late 30’s which is exactly what reinforced my obesity, addictions, mental illness, and general lack of health.

As a young person I had many dreams including to be an astronaut, a doctor, and traveling to the jungle to work with Jane Goodall. I had many more as well and often had big huge dreams. I was often called “too much”. I would share these dreams with anyone willing to listen. I was discouraged with words, usually seeded into my head from my mother. At 7-8 years old we believe what our parents and older siblings say, since they know more than we do.  As a result of her own lifetime of abuse, my mother was a very negative person and repeated to me over and over why it would be next to impossible to be an astronaut, a doctor and to travel to the jungle. Everyone around me repeated what she said and sometimes added more reasons I would find it impossible. By the time I was 13 I kept my dreams to myself, not consciously, but I recently recognize that I stopped sharing my dreams with anyone. They became secret desires that I kept very close to my vulnerable heart.

Even if my relationships didn’t work for a lifetime they worked for a period of time and I am proud of that. My lovers were my lovers because they gifted me something I really needed. I think this is true for most of us, even if we are in abusive relationships. I received love and confidence from most of my past lovers. My first husband had more confidence in me than anyone before his time had expressed. He was from such a dark place that he had the perspective that there was only one place to go, UP! I did sometimes share with him my dreams. The encouragement he had for me got me past the “do nothing” stage. I listened to him but at some point our relationship peaked. Another lover had confidence in me to be something greater than I can imagine.  I know I learned from the experience.  I also gained much needed personal space in that relationship, after raising a child, which also helped me rewire my brain.

Rewiring the brain was a process in which I wished I had access to more information about. My financial situation and lack of access to education forced me to figure it out for myself. In my early twenties I began to take charge of my life and make major changes. I was inspired by a spiritual community that believed in me. I wanted to change my habits and achieve something other than the miserable life I had lived up until that point. I had been keeping my dreams in since I was a teenager but had followed a few. I had by then changed most of the people that were in my life, therefore reducing the negative messages in my life. These people were less negative, some were better with encouraging words than others. I had a few close very healthy good friends that would encourage me with words and often had more confidence in me than I did. I wanted to believe in myself to accomplish my dreams but many of the dreams had been lost along the way.

When I finally enrolled in college I began to tell myself that I COULD do it! Just before I decided to go to college I had made several “rebellious” choices. Even though people told me why I couldn’t do things I had learned a deep “fuck you” attitude from my then husband…the one that also taught me that when your at the bottom there is no where to go but up! That lead me to homeschool my son, move out of the city, and run my own business. None of these things were encouraged and all I heard was all the reasons I COULDN’T do it. When I went to college it was again, out of rebellion. I refused to go into debt for school and insisted I would find a way to attend for free. I had waited till I was over 25 so I qualified for more grants and help from the government. I applied for grants and scholarships and was rewarded more money than I needed to attend and pay for books. I even bought myself a brand new laptop with the money!

College was full of encouraging people and instructors. They would tell me how easy it could be and how their confidence in me to achieve my goals was overwhelming. These people barely knew me but somehow they had more confidence in me than I had in myself. Their words sunk in, even if I pretended not to hear them. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA in Psychology and Counseling. Many things changed as a result of this accomplishment and I began to chase down my abandoned dreams one at a time. As I graduated I knew I had to get my body, mind, and spirit healthy. How can I heal others if I can’t heal myself?

My entire childhood & youth my mother explained how my entire family was meant to be fat. I believed her so deeply that I even identified with the label BBW – Big Beautiful Woman in my 20’s-30’s. I knew that my family was big and all of us were fat and we would always be that way. It was a fact and even as I set my weight-loss goals you can tell I didn’t believed I could be anything but fat. A healthy body seemed unobtainable and I had spent my 20’s reinforcing that belief. I was “big boned” and “well proportioned” – I assure you that although I come from thick stock no body is meant to be obese. The human body was not meant to hold, carry, and process 100+ pounds of fat. When we are obese some part of us knows this but the “easy” belief was that “I was meant to be fat”. That was my reality. I had to change my mind, my reality, my thoughts.

First, I began to be inspired by others who had been very big and lost weight. Their stories, one after another, how they lost weight and changed their lives. The more I heard these stories the more I was convinced that I could have this too. I wanted a healthy body! I read Bob Harper’s book “Are you Ready?” in hopes to figure out what my blockage was. I kept quitting and falling off the wagon.

Bob’s story was profound for me. Through self reflection, stories from other people who has lost weight, and this book I had put together that I had not only a belief but negative self talk that was simply self sabotage. I had learned so thoroughly, in my first 16 years, that nothing good would ever happen to me, failure was eminent, and that the fat on my body was eminent.

The first year of my so called “weight-loss” I would lose 10lbs and then gain it right back. I would be doing well for a while and then I would fall “off the wagon” again which ended up being further evidence of just how much I was a failure. I convinced myself that maybe all the negative messages I grew up with were true. Those negative messages contributed to my quitting, self criticism, and  sado/masochism tendencies. Negativity in the body is like a bacteria infection. It slows down your thinking, responses, and often brings on stagnation and non movement. If we want to move through our negativity we must find something to replace those negative thoughts with. Treating negativity can be done when you replace it with positive perspectives and thoughts.

The first step to moving through negativity is to move to a more positive perspective and thoughts. Our thoughts create our perspective. Our perspective influences our experiences.I found the risk of a positive perspective to be a fearful experience. What if I was wrong and the positive thing doesn’t come true? I would surely find myself a failure! What a risk to change! Change can be scary for those of us that need to feel safe. Our world hasn’t always been safe, now we work hard to find safety in our lives. Years have past and we still work hard to find safe space. I learned that in safe space, nothing changes, that’s what makes it safe. Although this is needed in our lives sometimes some of us tend to resist change in a way that isn’t helpful. We get stuck and stagnant. Then as a result find ourselves obese, addicted, depressed, and or many other common complaints in our modern world.

I began to rewire my brain with positive thoughts and perspectives with daily affirmations and meditation. Also, yoga had set out to prove to me that I could do things. Since I was so big when I exercised, regardless of what it was, I would find myself exhausted. I would end the exercise with heavy breathing, stitch in my side, sore muscles, and more reasons why I couldn’t exercise. This of course reinforced the thought and perspective “I will always be fat” So my thoughts, influence my perspective, and as a result effect my experience with exercise. My emotional reaction is to be depressed or disappointed in myself. As a result I am ready to eat a cake and watch TV, so again I can reinforce why I am meant to be fat. Exactly what my mother told me most of my life. Now I am right! This thinking lead me to a direct opposition to my values, which created dissonance and depression.

In Bob’s book he asked that we “trust the process” in that if we exercised and did what he suggested that in the end we would gain our goals. This was a big leap for me but I knew that holding onto the negative thinking I had learned in my horrific childhood wasn’t going to get me what I wanted or needed desperately, today. I needed to figure this weight loss thing out or I was going to be very sick. I was going to die. A very scary thought when you feel like you haven’t lived your life at all.

I began to do light exercise that didn’t end in negative circumstances, instead I tried to find ways to move my body in ways that I enjoyed. This took me several years of exploration with different types of activities. It came as no surprise my favorites were in the outdoors, especially deep wilderness. I have always felt a strong inner desire to be connected to nature, remember I wanted to live in the jungle with Jane Goodall!

I also found that when I was gentle with myself in my exercise I was able to experience the positive reward at the end. If I didn’t push myself enough I would not experience the positive reward, either.  Finding that balance brings us a good reward at the end of the exercise, therefore reinforcing that exercise is good for us. Finding this balance in swimming was the difference between swimming backstroke or freestyle because in backstroke my breath is more available. When using a treadmill it might be about setting the incline or speed just right.

My breakthrough though was when I explored approaches to exercise. I never felt the need to push like they did in “The Biggest Loser” and other dramatic examples of exercise. Although many people do seem to find some inspiration in it. I found it to be discouraging to my progress in finding peace with exercise and instead it had me avoiding, procrastinating and hating the experience. Instead I needed something that lifted me up, that helped me feel good, inspired, loved, embraced, connected. Over the years those have been things like “Geocaching” –  “Dance Lessons at Home” – “Hiking” – “Primitive Camping” – “Yoga” – “Meditative Strength Training“.  An array of activities that are exercise but also help inspire other parts of me that are deeply connected to my values, interests, expressions, and inspirations. I don’t find that walking on a treadmill while watching the negative news reports to be inspiring, positive or uplifting! Someone else might, but I figured out that it DID NOT work for me. That search took curiosity and compassion for my lack of experience. I was never much of an athlete, other than average camping, up until this point in my life. I was 30yo.

Now, I know what I love to do, and when I do it, I find great joy in it. I laugh and have fun with it. I relax and naturally push myself just into that balanced place. I am greatly rewarded at the end of the exercise, creating a positive experience. The next time I think about doing that exercise I am reminded of that positive experience. My thoughts have changed, my perspective has changed, my emotional experience has changed.

Once we begin to have positive emotions tied to an experience we can begin to find the bonding process of emotions, experiences, thoughts and perspectives. Finding evidence of our positive thoughts and perspectives helps reinforce the change in our brain towards more positive thoughts. This is how we create lasting change. This is how we rewire our brains.

I began to lose weight and when I lost 75lbs I felt like I had climbed the biggest mountain I had ever seen! I was still almost 75lbs over weight but my loss was not to be ignored! I had done it but now to keep it off. My yoga practice had proven to me, over and over, that if I stayed and practiced I would certainly achieve whatever I was reaching for. I did poses that I couldn’t do just 6 months prior and was constantly proving to myself that with some simple practice I could learn and achieve my personal goals.

I had been doing yoga so long on my own that I really had no comparison to others. When some young people visited me they expressed being impressed and even inspired by my yoga. I had learned all I knew from books and videos. They wanted me to TEACH THEM? My brain froze at this idea because I had never considered myself a fitness freak and that is who teaches yoga, right? I did show them what I knew and although I gave myself credit I still minimized my accomplishment with a lack of education and minimizing thoughts like “they just must be young”.

I really wanted to get deeper into my yoga, my life was changing, rapidly. I had lost the 100lbs goal that I first set for myself even though I knew that the healthier number was to lose another 50lbs. Before I had lost those 100lbs though I was convinced that losing more than 100lbs was not healthy for me! Seriously, I thought if I lost too much I would look anorexic, be unhappy, and be vulnerable. I realized that many of these beliefs were unfounded and frankly silly. It was my negative self talk trying to win again. The part of me that wanted everything to stay the same, the survivor that wanted to keep me safe. Somehow this survivor believed that change was dangerous. I learned this in my childhood as well. This survivor brain kept me from setting high goals so I didn’t have to deal with failure! I assumed I would fail at anything I tried. I had learned though, in those 100lbs of fat burned, that I wasn’t doomed to fail and that my biggest obstacle to good health was my mind.

Meditation was suggested by the best of the best regarding rewiring the brain. I began to try it a little at a time and integrated it with my yoga practice. I meditated deeply and even found myself deep in a spiritual transformation as I arrived at the 100lbs lost mark. I had worked on changing many of the ways I did things and this was just one more. I changed my perspective and thoughts about failure. I refused to accept failure. I faced my fear of failure and stood in tree pose as an opposition to it. I focused on my balance and simply reminded myself, remember when you couldn’t get your toes off the floor. Each time I did warrior I reminded myself, remember when you couldn’t hold this more than a few seconds. Thank goodness I even had a lover and a son that regularly showed me pictures and reminded me what I had overcome. I even seen that I had made them proud of me, so why the hell wasn’t I proud of me?  I still heard my mother’s voice telling me how she lost 100lbs and then gained it back, she had accepted her fate as a big woman. My entire family was big! I began to take different perspectives on in order to overcome this so called “fate”. I tried on that we are supposed to be stocky and strong. I even thought well maybe its the complete opposite – since most things my mother told me was the opposite of true. I ended up with a simple one. I was born into unfortunate circumstances, I survived, and now I am here to not only prove it can be done but hold the hand of those working to overcome similar unfortunate circumstances. I am the light holder for those in the dark.

I began to try to inspire people with my story, focusing on what I had accomplished. I even began to promise myself to refuse the fate my mother had set out for me. I used all the rebellious energy I had to go against the self talk that was so prevalent in my childhood and youth. I began to focus on all I had done well and all I had overcome. I even reminded myself that I didn’t always do what people set out as my “fate” and that most times they were simply wrong. I began to be gentle with myself instead of listening to the young brain I had carried with me since childhood.

I told myself over and over again – You can accomplish anything you put your mind to. You can do this, that part of you is just a scared child. I gently soothed the child within with gentle yoga and soothing words. I repeated things like “I know your scared, but know I am here to lead you in a good way.” I felt I owed something to this child in a way. I give credit to the Al-anon program for helping me work with my inner child. Honestly, I felt responsible for this child in a way I had never felt about myself in the past. I wanted to take care of this child in the best way possible. I had already proven at this point that if you did, the child would turn out fairly healthy. My son was my example. I had been so rebellious at age 16 that I used it to raise my son the best I could, the exact opposite perspective that my mother took. He is now 23 yo, homeschooled, super smart and even confident. He hadn’t made the same mistakes I did and I was proud. I had proven that not all of my family was doomed for failure. Neither was I. Now to mother MY inner child.

In my regular meditation practice I take time to comfort the child. I always know when the child is feeling neglected because the negative messages are delivered regularly. Today, I also remind myself of where I have come from and I no longer assume failure. Failure is not in my reality simply because through meditation I learned that failure is a perspective not a fact. Even though many school systems would be happy to tell you what failure is for them, in my life it is an unhealthy perspective learned in our unhealthy culture. Its not hard to take on the failure perspective with our current culture. I have realized that I am not the only one who has experienced the assumption of failure. I recognized it in our culture when the school system told me that my son had failed reading and as a result was doomed to fail school. I sat in on his reading class to see what could have lead my son to this horrible fate I was disgusted by what I witnessed from a so called “certified teacher” and “reading expert”. Her approach was negative and she sounded like my mother. Failure is a fate you choose to accept for yourself. I no longer choose failure, I choose winning. That was what I taught my son as I pulled him out of the school system to homeschool. If something is not working out for us, then we simply try something else.

Today I tell myself, I don’t fail, ever! Sometimes I use less effective approaches to things but once I learn from it, make adjustments for success, and then apply the lessons, I will win. It might take me lots of attempts. I fell out of tree pose 1000 times – for 3 years before I was able to hold it steady. I had to adjust my warrior a million times before the muscle in my thigh would hold me longer than 20 seconds. I had to be in my darkest of days before I realized that my self talk was the cause of my lack of success with my most personal dreams.

Today, I practice telling my dreams out loud, even in the face of discouraging words. I simply pull on that rebellious attitude. Then when I achieve something I don’t minimize it, instead I celebrate it. Even if I do it alone I celebrate every accomplishment. I am still applying these changes to my thinking and still find myself with negative self talk. I breathe, listen to the inner child, reassure the child and then proceed. Quitting is not an option. Failure is not a reality – its a perspective. A positive perspective can completely change the entire landscape in the brain in a way that can hold everlasting positive evolution.

Even recently the opportunity to go to the jungle seemed insurmountable. Finally, a lifelong dream was unfolding but it seemed insurmountable to me. The opportunity came at a time I was pushing through a test of faith with my yoga practice. As a result of my avoidance of yoga, I found the negative self talk had emerged. The child within was throwing a tantrum because I hadn’t taken the time to comfort the child. I usually comfort my child on the mat while doing yoga. The negative messages returned to my mind and without clearing my mind with meditation I was once again hearing the negative self talk. When I got back to my yoga and meditation I found immediate positive results. My inner child was soothed and comforted. I had to set goals and make them happen because no one else was going to do anything for me, I had to do it myself. The more I take care of myself, the more things begin to unfold into my dream life.

Now, I am preparing to leave for Costa Rica, my first time out of the USA and my first time to the jungle. My life long dream of visiting the jungle has finally arrived. I am doing work I can be proud of. I have surround myself with people that have positive outlooks. I see challenges as simply mountains to climb, one step in front of another. My perspective has shifted and now to keep it there I know that I must clear my mind with meditation. My child must be soothed with positive self talk and gentle yoga. I am rewiring my brain constantly.

I could feel sorry for myself for having to overcome such so called “insurmountable” changes and having suffered so greatly as a child. Instead, I am grateful for my horrific childhood and my mother’s negative words that she still tries to implant in my brain anytime we talk. They are nothing but fuel, tell me I can’t do something and I will say “Fuck you! Yes I can.”

Now I am ready to take on the world. I share my experience in hopes that I can help others who have a similar experience….I know that YOU CAN DO IT! I also know that my story, my methods, and my words have power because other people’s had power to inspire my experience. Language and words have power and I want mine to lift you up! Let’s talk stuff out. Call me 1-888-INGENIO Ext. 05051094 and let me help guide you into methods of rewiring your brain!

 

 

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